It's impossible to share a recipe for salmorejo and not offer one for gazpacho, the Spanish cold tomato soup that got its American visa a long time ago. 1824, to be exact! While gazpacho is a definitively Spanish dish, it was included in what's considered to be the first truly American cookbook, The Virginia Housewife: or, Methodical Cook, by Mary Randolph. Food Historian, Karen Hess shed some light on the inclusion in her annotated version of the book, explaining that Mary's sister, Harriet, lived in Cadiz, Spain and likely passed along the recipe. But the plot thickens!
Mary Randolph's recipe reads as such:
"Put some soft biscuit or toasted bread in the bottom of a salad bowl, put in a layer of sliced tomatas with the skin taken off, and one of sliced cucumbers, sprinkled with pepper, salt, and chopped onions; do this until the bowl is full, stew some tomatas quite soft, strain the juice, mix in some mustard and oil, and pour over it; make it two hours before it is eaten."
Could this be the beginning of chunky gazpacho in America - the reason why you find so many versions resembling something closer to Mexican salsa or Italian panzanella than to a simple strained and thinned, olive oil and vinegar-spiked ripe tomato soup? For all her contributions to the American kitchen, I couldn't possibly put that burden solely upon Ms. Randolph, but I would like to share either the evolution of the dish, or at least what I discovered and loved about living in Southern Spain: Gazpacho Andaluz. During the sweltering summers there, a pitcher of this rejuvenating elixir always waits in the fridge or at the bar, ready to be poured and gulped down by the hot and weary.
2 pounds ripe tomatoes
1 hunk (about 1 cup) of day-old bread or fresh bread dried in a low oven
1/2 of a cucumber, peeled, seeds removed
1/4 of a bell pepper (green or red), seeds removed
2 cloves garlic
3 cups cold water
1/2 cup Good Olive Oil
2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Salt, to taste
Soak the stale bread in cold water in a bowl.
Peel and seed tomatoes, electing one of two techniques:
1. Put water to boil in a large enough pot to hold the tomatoes. As water comes to a boil, prepare a cold water bath, combining cold water & ice in a bowl. Have a colander at the ready. Make an 'x' with a sharp knife on the end opposite the tomato stems and dunk your tomatoes into the boiling water, only long enough to loosen the skins (about 1-2 min.). Then, quickly plunge them into your cold water bath. Slip off the skins, and break the tomatoes open to also remove the seeds with your fingers. Put into the bowl of a food processor.
2. Put tomatoes, along with the peeled cucumber and bell pepper, into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to purée, then strain through a food mill. Return puréed vegetables to the (rinsed) bowl of your food processor.
Lightly squeeze water from bread and add to your food processor. If you did not purée and strain the cucumber and pepper with the tomatoes, add them to the bowl now. Add garlic and a hearty pinch of salt. Pulse to purée, adding olive oil in a stream through the feed tube. Add a tablespoon of vinegar at a time, stopping to taste. Add the cold water through the feed tube, stopping once a medium thin consistency is achieved. Add additional salt to taste.
Serve in a glass to drink or a bowl, whichever way you prefer. You can also keep this in a pitcher in your fridge, stirring before you pour another glass.