A couple of weekends ago Cheryl and I traveled back to Washington DC to see some friends and ended up having Sunday Brunch at Taberna del Alabardero. Normally brunch is brunch but this particular Sunday they were hosting a Feria del Abril event. Dancers, food, drink. Lots and lots of them. One small bite offered was a little glass of gazpacho. It reminded me of a tomato soup Cheryl and I learned how to make in Barcelona while we were on our honeymoon. I didn’t think I’d have a chance to make it so soon but Chicago cooperated and one day last week the temperature was up over 80°F. Perfect opportunity to make this quick and easy summertime soup.
As I said, when we were in Barcelona on our honeymoon we attended a cooking class at Cook and Taste. It was a lot of fun and we learned how to make a few different things: crema Catalana, paella, pan con tomate, potato tortilla, and this soup. Everyone taking the class made different parts of the meal, we opted to make the crema Catalana, similar to creme brulee.
It was a lot of fun and produced many interesting moments, one of which was guessing which person was going to cut their finger off. Our classmates weren’t exactly well-practiced in using knives. Then there was the guy making the pan con tomate who, despite the chef’s instruction to just make a couple of garlic rubs on the bread, ground close to an entire clove into each piece. Cheryl was watching him and said “keep your eye on that basket of bread so we can pick from the other one.” See? Cooking is fun and entertaining!
I highly recommend taking a cooking class when travelling in a foreign country. You’ll get to take your recipes home with you and every time you make one of the dishes you’ll remember that trip. And you’ll always have something to talk about while eating the dishes.
This dish is definitely an “add what you think is an appropriate amount” type of recipe. I’m looking at the recipe sheet from the class and there aren’t any amounts for the parsley or balsamic. Add what you’re comfortable with. With the parsley, I add enough so it’s about equal to or maybe a little less than the nuts, about 4 sprigs/shoots, enough so when you hold them in your hand all bunched together the bunch of leaves cover your fist. When mixing in the balsamic vinegar you have to keep adding and tasting until you hit the right balance where you pick up the sweetness of the vinegar but not too much to overpower the tomatoes. Just add some, taste, add some more, taste. I apologize for this but the best way to describe it is the soup needs to have that “tang” to it. It’s going to have a deep red color when it reaches this point. Because it’s an add to taste recipe you can make large or small quantities pretty easily. Top it with the “pesto” and some cheese. The class recipe calls for some allioli (aioli) but I can never seem to find any here. If you can find some use it! I remember it being great with this soup.
PS – if you do find yourself in Barcelona and decide to take a cooking class with Cook & Taste, opt for the shopping part at La Boqueria as well. It’s one of the most amazing food markets I’ve been to. We didn’t do the market tour and only discovered it at the end of our trip. I was very upset about this because I would’ve eaten lunch there every day of the trip if I’d known about it earlier. Probably just as well though as I’m sure after the second lunch Cheryl might have given me the “really?” if I’d wanted to go for a third time. Just sit down at a counter and point to stuff. Cheryl had to pry me away. The picture of hanging meat behind the gnomes in the header above? La Boqueria. Yeah, do it.
Sopa de Tomate (yields about 8-10 C depending on your tomatoes)
- 4 lbs tomatoes
- Balsamic vinegar
- 1 oz Walnuts
- 1 oz Pecans (recipe calls for hazelnuts but I never have any in the cupboard)
- Olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic
- Grated idiazabal cheese (or some other sharp or sheep’s milk cheese)
Make an X in the bottom of each tomato with the tip of a knife. Fill a pot with enough water to cover the tomatoes. Bring the pot of water to a simmer. Drop in two tomatoes. Allow them to sit in the water for about 45-60 seconds. Remove from pot and set aside. Repeat with the rest of your tomatoes.
When the tomatoes have cooled enough for you to handle comfortably, peel the skins off. They should come off pretty easily. If not dip the tomato back into the hot water for a few seconds.
Next core the tomatoes and puree in a food processor, or food mill, or with your stick blender.
Take the pureed tomatoes and strain with a fine wire strainer. Use a spoon or rubber spatula to press liquid through the mesh. You’ll be left with the seeds and some pulp.
Add a few Tbs of balsamic vinegar, mix, and taste. Keep adding balsamic vinegar until you reach the balance which suits you.
Add some salt to taste.
Chill the soup.
When ready pour into cups or bowls and garnish with the parsley-nut “pesto” and grated cheese.
In a mortar and pestle add the garlic cloves, walnuts, pecans, parsley, salt and grind together. Add some olive oil and combine to make a pesto-like paste. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add to soup with some grated cheese and allioli if you can find some!