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White Gazpacho (Ajo Blanco)

From Beth Dooley, chef and author

Russian Pickling cucumber

The base for this robust, satisfying cold soup relies on bread, almonds, and plenty of garlic. Cucumbers add the fresh, vibrant flavor, and sherry vinegar makes a snappy finish. It’s hearty enough for lunch or a light dinner paired with tomato-topped bruschetta.

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cubed bread (most of the crust removed)
  • 1½ cups cold water, or more if needed
  • ½ cup blanched slivered almonds
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 cups diced cucumbers*
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped for garnish, optional
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley, optional

Preparation

*If the cucumbers are very fresh and firm, there is no need to peel and seed them. But if they’re bitter tasting and seem dry, it’s best to peel and seed before using.

Put the bread in a bowl and cover with the water to soften.

Put the almonds and garlic into a blender and process until ground.

Add the soaked bread, cucumbers, olive oil, vinegar, and honey, and process until smooth, adding more water if it seems too thick.

Pour into a bowl; season with salt and pepper, and chill.

Serve in cold mugs or bowls, garnished with the chopped pepper and parsley, if desired.