Cold Almond Soup, Gilded

17 Jul

It’s hot in New York City. As I write this now, it’s 87°F (dele, now it’s 92°), the same temperature it was when I went to bed last night. It’s so hot I just might (and this is a big deal) overcome a mortal fear and take the bus to work. Yes, that’s hot!

So, how do you beat this kind of heat? Walk very slowly in the shade, drink lots of water, watch old movies, read a book, put a bag of frozen peas on your neck, try to leave work by 5pm (since they turn the AC off at that time, but I never get to leave work before 5pm, so then I sit and boil), eat lots of salads and cold soups.

On Saturday I talked the boy into going over to Boerum Hill in Brooklyn to watch the Bastille Day petanque tournament on Smith Street. I promised him lunch at our favorite restaurant, sweaty Frenchmen and cheap wine. Yeah, none of that happened. Our favorite restaurant was closed for renovations and the petanque tournament was on Sunday. Doh!

On the subway ride home we decided that the best way to salvage the day was with a fabulous dinner, Cold Almond Soup. I was SO excited to make this because it meant that I could finally squirt almonds! I never thought I’d get to indulge in this activity because to be quite honest, I don’t really like nuts of any stripe. Luckily with enough olive oil and garlic applied in the proper way, I do like nuts.

We stopped off at the best new place in the Lower East Side; Formaggio Kitchen (actually, is’s a tie for b.n.p.i.t.l.e.s. between Formaggio Kitchen and Saxelby Cheesemongers). Max, the seriously knowledgeable manager hooked us up with some delicious cheese for snacks and a bottle of gorgeous sherry vinegar from Andalucia (they have huge vats of vinegar and olive oil that you can decant into your own pretty bottle for $1 off!)

Next we bopped over to Economy Candy for some almonds. I couldn’t remember what kind of almonds this recipe took so we got some plain and some roasted. Turns out we only needed plain. (The boy had this soup once about a year ago at the lovely Uovo. We looked up recipes at that time so I was working from memory on this soup).

I think it was the memory of that meal at Uovo that inspired one of the garnishes for this soup which is traditionally served with halved red grapes (or maybe I just wanted to play with fruit some more). The chef at Uovo is a wizard with pickles. One time, he sent my fish out garnished with pickled summer squash, another time we went for the deep fried pickle (I loved, boy hated).

In crafting this soup, I was afraid to make the vinegar taste too intense, so I figured the pickled melon would be a good way of controlling that. And then well, who can say no to garlicky fried bread crumbs, and well, why not just gild the lily and season them with the saffron salt lurking in my pantry? Saffron’s just as Spanish as Ajo blanco, even if one is a peasant food and the other a treat of the bourgeoisie, who says they can’t get along?

And get along they did. Let me just say that this soup was just as beautiful in the mouth as it is in pictures. This is a wonderful, impressive dish for a swanky summertime dinner party, and it’s pretty darn cheap to make too!

Head below the jump for the recipes for this delicious soup and its gilding garnishes.

Cold Almond Soup

prep time: 30 minutes ~ cooking time: none ~ chilling time: at least 1 hour

  • 1 cup blanched Almonds (see Faith’s great post to learn how to squirt, aka blanch, almonds)
  • 1 cup Bread Crumbs (preferably made from day old bread) + 1/2 cup extra for garnishing
  • 4 cloves Garlic, peeled
  • at least 1 1/2 pints Cold Water (yes, I was using a pint glass to measure…)
  • at least 2 tbsps your best Extra Virgin Olive Oil (this is the time to trot out that stuff you’ve been saving, just make sure it hasn’t gone rancid)
  • Salt
  • Sherry Vinegar (you can use red wine vinegar in a pinch, but you shouldn’t)

In a Cuisinart or blender, send the almonds, garlic and a bit of olive oil for a blitz. When the consistency is a bit like natural peanut butter, add the bread crumbs and about 1/2 pint of water and send for another blitz until everything is well incorporated.

Taste. Season with some salt and quite a bit more olive oil. Send for another blitz.

Turn the soup out into a bowl. Keep adding water and whisking in until you have reached your desired consistency. Season with a dash of sherry vinegar. Taste. Add more if desired (but remember you’ll be garnishing with some more of the stuff). Don’t worry if you think there’s not enough garlic shining through, it will intensify during the chilling.

When you love it, put it in the refrigerator to chill for at least an hour.

While the soup is chilling make the garnishes.

Pickled Musk Melon

prep time: 10 minutes ~ cooking time: none ~ chilling time: about 1 hour

  • 1/2 Musk Melon (or your favorite melon, this is what I had on hand)
  • Sherry Vinegar
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Water

Finely slice half the melon (aka 1/4 of the melon) into thin strips and place in a small bowl. Season with salt & pepper liberally. Fill the bowl half way up the melon with vinegar. Top off with water. Stir to coat and place in the fridge to macerate

Finely dice the other half the melon (aka 1/4) and place in a bowl. Put in the fridge to chill.

Gilded Bread Crumbs

prep time: 5 minutes ~ cooking time: 10 minutes

  • 1/2 cup Bread Crumbs, reserved from soup making (preferably made from day old bread)
  • 2 large or 4 small cloves Garlic, peeled and sent through a garlic press (you can mince them if you want, just make sure it’s a very fined mince)
  • Olive Oil
  • Saffron salt

Add a healthy glug of olive oil to a small saute pan. Set over medium heat. Add the garlic and bread crumbs and coat. Cook until just becoming golden brown. Season liberally with saffron salt. Turn to coat. Place in a bowl to cool

To serve the soup:

Remove from fridge, whisk to make sure everything is blended, taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Ladle soup into individual bowls. Place a few strips of pickled melon in the middle. Place a small mound of the un-pickled melon on top of that. Place a mound of bread crumbs on top of the melons. Drizzle some of your very best olive oil in a pretty pattern. Bask in the oohs and aahs!

Dobar tek!

6 Responses to “Cold Almond Soup, Gilded”

  1. Chris July 17, 2006 at 12:26 pm #

    I’ve never heard of a soup from almonds before. A perfect thing to eat in this heat. I like how you tied the recipe in with what you did this weekend.

  2. sher July 17, 2006 at 4:01 pm #

    Great post!! I love the pictures. I have a recipe for grape and almond gazpacho that I want to make because it’s so freaking hot!!

  3. Julie July 17, 2006 at 5:39 pm #

    This is what really caught my eye: cooking time: none

    Your soup looks about perfect for a day like today.

  4. lobstersquad July 18, 2006 at 1:30 pm #

    Ajoblanco! I love that soup. I´ll have to try your garnishes. I usually have it with grapes or diced Granny Smith apples. It´s so good.

  5. ann July 18, 2006 at 5:54 pm #

    Chris, if you like creamy soups, but hate the idea of all the calories the cream might impart, this is a soup for you! I found a few hot versions too while researching this, if you want them, just let me know

    Sher, make it! it’s sublimely delicious!

    Julie, no cook soups are the ONLY way to “cook” in this heat and not melt!

    Lobstersquad, if those are the classic Spanish garnishes, I’ll have to try them next, just to see what I’ve missed! If you try the melon let me know (I was tempted to try and hunt down some Iberico lomo to garnish with too, but it was too hot for that quest!)

  6. faith July 20, 2006 at 8:40 pm #

    This looks so yummy, Ann! Thanks for another reason to go squirt some almonds.
    I peeled fava beans yesterday and they were just too fun.

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