Of all the places I’ve traveled so far, the Spanish city of Granada haunts me the most. I was only there for a short stay but the sun-bleached hills and dips that form the city and leave many a tourist lost and searching are often present in my dreams. Years later, I find myself unsure where my stay ends and my dreams begin. I like to think this is because Granada is an especially sleepy locale. We all know the Spanish stereotype: “Mañana, mañana”. But Granada is truly a city full of sleepwalkers. It’s a quiet city. Almost silent. And the people that you encounter during the day—ancient Spanish mothers and dozy shop owners—go about their hours with peaceful, unspoken intention.
Night is a different story.
At night, the city wakes up from its sunny slumber. As the streets darken and bars open, the air rings with a complete change of pace. People walk faster; voices echo louder. Everyone changes into something a little more colourful. You have to hurry just to catch up.
The tapas bar exists at the heart of this. A nightly ritual—you order a drink, they give you a snack—worth waking for.
My first night in Granada, I found myself elbow to elbow with locals in a particularly raucous tapas bar. We ordered a drink—some red wine from the region—and they gave us our snack. A small bowl of oily anchovies swimming in bright red tomato sauce. It stunk of garlic and hours of stewing. A thick slice of bread, fried in sweet olive oil, floated on top.
There was something so very Spanish about topping a rich stew with an even richer garnish. Nothing green or fresh; more fat, please! But that slice of fried bread was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. Golden and crunchy on the outside, soft and soaked in the middle. I wanted more. So I ordered another drink.
This soup is inspired by my first tapas experience in Granada. I was making tomato soup the other night but I was craving bold flavour. Thinking back to that steaming stew from years ago, anchovy, garlic, onion and just a pinch of smoked paprika were the answer. I also made some olive oil croutons as an homage to that amazing slice of fried bread.
Spanish Tomato Soup
Spanish Tomato Soup
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
3 oil-packed anchovies, roughly chopped + 1 tablespoon of the oil the anchovies were packed in
1-28 oz can of whole tomatoes
1 ½ cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
½ teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive + anchovy oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, smoked paprika and anchovies. Saute for 8-10 minutes until onions are golden and anchovies are fragrant.
Add tomatoes, broth, sugar and salt and pepper (beware that the anchovies and broth are both sources of salt so you may not need much). Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes (or longer—the flavour will only deepen) until the flavours meld. Puree soup and add additional salt and pepper to taste.
Olive Oil Croutons
2 cups of day-old bread (any kind), torn into 1-inch pieces
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 400.
In a large bowl, combine bread with olive oil and mix to coat. Spread in one layer a large rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Bake, turning occasionally, for 15-20 minutes until bread is crunchy and golden. Allow to cool just slightly before serving.