Gazpacho, Spain’s cold tomato-vegetable soup, has become a staple part of America’s summer diet. One sees gazpacho and variations of it everywhere—in tony (and not so tony) restaurant menus, in glossy food magazines, and in the takeout aisles of grocery stores. However, in 1939, when Charles H. Barker published his culinary travelogue/cookbook, “The Gentleman’s Companion,” a cold vegetable soup was a novelty to most American readers.
Born in 1895, Baker (“Bake” to his friends) started his professional life as a mechanical engineer, but after his first wife died from the Spanish Flu, he developed a real wanderlust, and spending part of an recent inheritance from a grandparent, booked himself on his first of three world cruises. It was during his third world cruise (where he was working as the ship’s onboard publicist) in 1932, that he met—and married at an impromptu, cocktail-laden ceremony in Hong Kong—Paulene Paulsen, a 21-year-old silver-mine heiress, who shared Baker’s love of travel. For the next quarter-century Baker spent his life traveling and writing about his travels, and particularly the foods and drinks he encountered.
While Baker’s lifestyle may seem an idyllic dream, particularly during these days of the COVID pandemic, many of his recipes are actually easy to produce. Baker’s recipe for a cold “soup salad,” which he describes as “one of the best dishes in the whole volume,” is unique in that it is made using a hard-boiled egg yolk base that gives the soup a richness that traditional gazpacho lacks. Particularly in the weeks of “nachamu,” leading up to Rosh Hashanah, this nourishing comfort food, even chilled, seems just right.
After tinkering a bit with Baker’s recipe, I have come up with my own version of Andalusian Cold Soup Salad. This has long been popular in the Kronemer household, not only for summertime Shabbos lunch but also for kiddush after a hashkama minyan.
Soup Salad (serves 8-10)
- 1 46 oz. bottle of tomato juice
- 1 medium red onion
- 1 cucumber (preferably English)
- 1 large or 2 small orange or yellow bell peppers
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 4 hard-boiled eggs (make sure they are not overcooked; the outside of the yolks should be yellow, not green)
- The juice of 4 limes (roughly ½ cup)
- 1½ teaspoons ground yellow mustard powder
- 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
- Tabasco or other hot sauce to taste (I like Nando’s Peri Peri hot sauce in this)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
A thinly sliced lime
Making the soup base:
Peel the two cloves of garlic and press them through a garlic press, or grate them through a micro plane into a large wooden salad bowl or glass serving bowl. Add the yolks of the eggs (saving the whites for later), the mustard, and the olive oil and, using a whisk, work this into a smooth paste. Then add the lime juice, Worcestershire and hot sauce (I usually add a teaspoon or two) and whisk until well incorporated. (Note: It can also be done by adding the soup base ingredients to a blender and blending until a smooth liquid, then pouring the contents of the blender into the large bowl.)
Making the soup:
Finely chop the onion, cucumber and bell peppers (the cucumber and bell peppers should be de-seeded first) and add them to the soup base. Chop the egg whites and add them to the soup base, then pour in the tomato juice and whisk the contents well. Season with salt and pepper, and chill in the refrigerator for at least three hours before serving. May be made 2-3 days in advance. (Note: The vegetables and egg whites can either be chopped by hand or in a food processor; if chopped in a food processor make sure not to over process, as the soup should be a little bit chunky.)
Ladle into bowls and float croutons, a thin wheel of lime, some chives, or all three on top of each bowl. If serving outside on a hot summer’s day, the empty bowls should be chilled in the freezer before serving.
Gamliel has been writing about kosher food, wine, and cocktails in newspapers and magazines for more than fifteen years. He lives with his wife Jessica in Silver Spring, Maryland.