It was a very hot and humid summer’s day in Madrid — the afternoon after the night before — for Mrs. E. and me. We were wandering in the shaded side streets window shopping and wondering what, if anything, we would have for lunch. Nothing but a cold beer sounded good.
In deference to Mrs. E. I suggested instead a time honoured classic: the virgin Bloody Mary a.k.a. the Bloody Shame. Mrs. E. shook me off — there are things which she just doesn’t suffer well, among them are “virgin” drinks and decaf diet colas (or “why bothers” in our parlance.)
Instead she sat us down at an outside table (none of the restaurants were air conditioned anyway) in a cool stone-walled alley, whose soaring walls were capped with a building-to-building awning of red canvas to shield us from the blistering sun. In her flawless Caribbean, highly polite, Spanish, Mrs. E. ordered an ice-cold, low-calorie, highly satisfying, garlic infused
(From Classic Spanish Cooking: Recipes for mastering the Spanish kitchen by Elizabeth Luard)
2 slices day old bread
2 Tablespoons of wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
2 1/4 lb ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped
1 green bell pepper, cored and seeded, roughly chopped
pinch of sugar
Soak the bread in a few tablespoons of ice cold water with the vinegar and garlic. Puree the bread with the other ingredients in a blender. Thin it out by adding ice-cold spring water until you have the consistency you want. Adjust the seasoning with salt and sugar. Chill in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours.
Serve in a tall, chilled glass. Best drunk in the afternoon, while wearing your ultra lightweight sweater draped over your shoulders, your pressed white jeans, suede driving shoes and Persol sunglasses. It also pairs well with a small chilled glass of Fino sherry and some almonds on the side.
(This can also be used as a first course soup by making it a little thicker and topping with chopped jamon serrano or country ham, croutons, hard-boiled egg and diced onion. And I bet both versions are delicious with the addition of a single hot pepper pureed into the mix.)