Salmorejo is a cold tomato soup from Cordoba in the Andalusia region of Spain. Similar to gazpacho, but with fewer ingredients and a thicker consistency, this soup is perfect for the hot summer days typical of southern Spain. It is also a great way to enjoy the bounty of ripe tomatoes that summer brings.
Salmorejo has a long history in Spain, evolving over time from a simple white dish based on bread soaked in water and/or vinegar to eventually including tomatoes as a main ingredient. Tomatoes were introduced to Spain in the 15th century thanks to Christopher Columbus, but were slow to become popular. They were not included in salmorejo until the late 19th or early 20th century. It was originally a labor intensive dish where everything was hand-ground by mortar and pestle. Thank goodness for modern blenders!
This soup is all about the tomatoes, so quality and ripeness are muy importante! Roma or plum tomatoes (called pera in Spain) are the most commonly used for salmorejo because they are very fleshy, lending a heavier body to the puree. We like to use a combination of plum tomatoes (for bulk) and Valencian tomatoes (for flavor), well, because we can. In the market we select the ripest tomatoes available. Despite the ugly bruises and soft spots, they have the best flavor.
Salmorejo is super simple to throw together. The basic ingredients are fresh tomatoes, stale bread, garlic, and olive oil. Some recipes add vinegar or lemon juice for a bright refreshing soup. Sherry vinegar, which is made from sherry wine in Andalucia, is the most commonly used.
The wonderful thing about this soup is its flexibility. Start with the basic recipe of tomatoes, garlic, bread and olive oil; then swap in whatever flavors you want. Our version is soft with deeper flavors. We replaced the sherry vinegar with a good, dry Oloroso sherry to add depth and nuttiness without the acidity of vinegar. We also added smoked Spanish paprika to impart a rich smoky flavor.
We kept our salmorejo light by reducing the amount of extra virgin olive oil. Most of the Spanish recipes I searched use about 150 ml of oil for 1kg tomatoes (about 5 ounces to 2.2 pounds), but I’ve also seen recipes adding more than one cup of olive oil to the same amount of tomatoes. As you will see, our version is much lighter than most.
The soup itself is flavorful and refreshing, but the toppings can make it really special. The most typical toppings are chopped hard-boiled egg and Jamón serrano, but you can play around with whatever you like. Many things come to mind, like chopped shrimp, fresh herbs, toasted pine nuts, etc.
We frequently end up with half a loaf of stale bread hanging around our kitchen, and this is a great way to put it to use. Roughly tear the middle from a loaf of stale bread to yield about 3 cups of packed bread chunks. Discard or save the crust for another use. We used a dense rustic white bread.
To remove the skins from the tomatoes, blanch them in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds, then dunk them in cold water and the skins will peel right off.
Cut out the cores and scrape out the seeds, saving them in a bowl. When the tomatoes are all cleaned, collect any leftover juice from your cutting board. Press the reserved cores, seed pulp, and juices gently through a sieve and use the resulting juice to moisten the bread chunks in a bowl. Some salmorejo recipes will call for water to moisten the bread, but why lose all of that tasty tomato juice?
Put the cleaned tomatoes in a blender with one clove of garlic, and blend into a puree. Now it’s time to start seasoning. In this version, we added about one-half teaspoon of smoked paprika and one tablespoon of Oloroso sherry. Salt and pepper were added to taste. At this point, you could substitute lemon juice or sherry vinegar for a brighter, more acidic soup. Also keep in mind that all tomatoes are different, so the amount of seasoning will depend on the sweetness or acidity of your tomatoes.
We ended up with about 5 cups of tomato puree. The final volume varies depending on the type and ripeness of tomatoes used, so the amount of bread used as a thickener needs to be adjusted. Add the moistened bread to the blender in batches, blending in between each addition, until the soup reaches the desired thickness.
Finally, we added about two tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil (use more if you like). If you have a blender with an opening in the lid, it is best to add the oil in a stream through the top of blender while mixing. This gives the soup a luxurious texture. Refrigerate. I recommend giving the cold soup a short ride in the blender just before serving. Garnish with an extra drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle bits of Jamón serrano on top.
2 kg (4.4 lbs) very ripe tomatoes
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon oloroso sherry
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or more to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
2 – 3 cups stale bread roughly torn into chunks
Jamón serrano, chopped
- Peel tomatoes by blanching in boiling water for 30 – 60 seconds, immersing in cold water, and slipping off skins.
- Halve the tomatoes. Remove the cores and scrape out the seeds, saving them in a bowl.
- Press the reserved cores and seed pulp gently in a sieve to collect juice. Use the collected juice to soak the bread chunks.
- Put the cleaned tomatoes in a blender with one clove of garlic, and blend into a smooth puree.
- Add smoked paprika, sherry, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the moistened bread to the blender in batches, blending between each addition, until the soup reaches the desired thickness.
- Add extra virgin olive oil and blend thoroughly.
- Chill before serving.
Garnish soup with the chopped Jamón serrano or the toppings of your choice.