Beating the Heat at the Kasbah!

July 2011 (recipe for salmorejo is below)

Dear friends:

Sitting at my desk under the relatively cool skies of Southern California, I can’t help but feel sorry for those of you sweltering in the heartland, and up and down the East Coast. The fact that 143 MILLION Americans are under a heat advisory compelled me to offer you two summer recipes guaranteed to keep the heat at bay. Mint tea (made with FRESH spearmint), as many of you know, is the national drink of Morocco. Serve it over ice and feel instantly refreshed. And a velvety smooth fresh tomato bisque from Andalucia!

Iced Atay b’na’na

 1 tablespoon loose Chinese green tea leaves

6 cups boiling water

1 large bunch fresh spearmint (Mentha spicata) rinsed under running water

Sugar, to taste

Mint leaves, for garnish

Place green tea in a teapot. Add boiling water. Steep 2-3 minutes. Stuff the mint inside the pot. Steep for a few minutes. Add sugar, to taste. Let cool. Serve over ice.

 Kitty’s Salmorejo

inspired by the one we had in Cadiz (Spain)

 I fell head over heels for salmorejo, a cold tomato bisque thickened with stale bread (and white bread at that!), when my husband and I spent a few days in Cadiz, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the Iberian Peninsula. Our days were spent exploring the nooks and crannies of this historic walled town (with a distinct Moorish flair) stopping whenever we could to devour thick slices of crusty bread topped with jamon y queso manchego. Three consecutive evenings found us at the same restaurant, sipping cups of velvety smooth salmorejo, the local version of Spanish gazpacho. On our third visit, the chef stopped by our table to welcome us, and at my urging,  shared his technique for making the delectable soup. Here is my adaptation—pure ambrosia when made with homegrown, over-ripe tomatoes.

Serves 4

 1 cup torn, soft white bread (such as two dinner rolls)

1/4 broth or water

4 large, ripe tomatoes (1 ½ to 2 lbs), peeled, and coarsely chopped

1 clove garlic

1/4 cup sherry (optional)

1 to 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons salt

2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped (optional)

3 ounces prosciutto, finely chopped (optional)

Edible flower such as society garlic, for garnish

In a bowl, soak bread in broth until soft.

In a blender, in batches, combine soaked bread and broth, tomatoes, garlic, sherry (if using), rice vinegar, olive oil, and salt.

Blend until velvety smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Add a little broth or water if mixture is too thick.

Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or until well chilled.

Just before serving, test the soup for salt. Thin out with a little broth, water, or tomato water if desired. Ladle into small bowls, garnish with chopped eggs, prosciutto, or edible flower, and serve.

Buen provecho!

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