I wanted to try this soup, from Chef Zouhair Zairi’s Moorish Fusion Cuisine. One of the reasons is that I have not seen, to my knowledge, anything remotely like this in the Lebanese or Near Eastern cuisine; almonds are always used as a garnish in savory dishes; there is one pudding, called kishk of the poor (keshk al-fukara), with almond milk thickened with rice powder, but that’s about it!
Chef Zouhair Zairi was born in Morrocco (his ancestry goes back to the early Moors), but lived all over the world including Hawaii where he lives and owns a restaurant. In his book, he says that this white gazpacho is a legacy of the Moors who ruled Andalusia in Spain for close to eight hundred years. It is simple to prepare, but offers a glimpse at the refinement of a civilization which produced places like the Alhambra palace, and beautiful cities like Seville, Granada or Córdoba; Moorish cuisine influenced traditional Middle-Eastern cuisine to this day, with its use of almonds, saffron, cinnamon, chilies and aromatic essences of flowers.
INGREDIENTS: (This recipe is adapted)
- 3 cups almond milk 2 cups almonds
- 3 or 4 slices of fresh soft bread, crumbled
- 1 tablespoon garlic paste
- 2 tablespoons sherry or apple vinegar
- 1/3 cup olive oil salt, to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon ground anise (my touch)
- 1/4 cup golden raisins and extra almonds for garnish (grapes is traditional)
- . Mix all the ingredients and allow to rest overnight. Serve cool with a garnish of golden raisins, a few almonds and some olive oil. I made the almond milk by soaking the almonds for close to 2 days, draining them then grinding them with water in a processor. I then drained them again and kept the almond pulp; I spread the pulp over a baking sheet and gently toasted it for a couple of hours in the oven till golden and dry. Feel free to use storebought almond milk. It is not so easily available in Lebanon. However, here nuts are sold everywhere (pistachios, walnuts, almonds and pine nuts), including at the tiniest neighborhood grocer.
Goats grazing near our house in the Chouf mountains, Lebanon (Deir el-Qamar) NOTE: This soup is rather watery, despite the addition of bread. I learned on this site that the trick to making almond milk thicker is to cook it (under the boiling point), then cool it.