Friday, May 29, 2020

Sukkot is almost upon us, and for most of us eating in a sukkah, as likely as not there will be at least a few meals when the weather will make that sukkah uncomfortably hot and humid. Such meals can be an opportunity to showcase chilled soups—and one of my favorites can be found in the pages of Charles H. Baker Jr.’s 1939 culinary travelogue, “The Gentleman’s Companion.”

Writing in a style that contained equal parts adventure-travel and recipes, Baker was one of the better-known food and drink writers during the mid-part of the last century. As Baker wrote in the forward to his book, “It was all of 14 years ago [1925] during a first adventure around the world that we made the agreeable discovery that all really interesting people—sportsmen, explorers, musicians, scientists, vagabonds and writers—were vitally interested in good things to eat and drink, [and] cared for exotic and intriguing ways of composing them.” Baker spent much of the rest of his life writing of these men and their culinary creations.

His Andalusian Cold Soup-Salad is a very idiosyncratic take on Gazpacho, and what makes it so well suited for the fall is that it is built around a hard-boiled egg yolk and olive-oil mixture that makes the soup feel hardier than many cold vegetable soups. Baker wrote about this soup that “we consider this one of the best dishes in this whole volume... Oddly enough, instead of coming to us via Ernest Hemingway or our bull-liquidating friend Sidney Franklin, or from some other Spanish habitue, it is from memory and pen of Tom Davin—formerly head of the American Museum of Natural History publications.”

The following recipe is based closely on Baker’s. However, I’ve changed a few of the proportions, and simplified the garnishes. In order to save time I often chop the vegetables and egg whites, each separately in a food processor. I wish you a Chag Sameach.

Andalusian Cold Soup-Salad

(produces roughly 3 quarts, serves 10)

6 cups of (preferably fresh) tomato juice

4 hard-boiled eggs (the yolks should still be a golden-yellow on the inside, without any green on the outside)

1 large sweet onion, finely chopped

1 large, or two small, bell peppers, peeled, de-seeded and finely chopped

1 English cucumber, peeled, de-seeded, and finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed in a garlic press

3 limes, juiced

3 tbsp. of olive oil

1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 ½ tsp. ground yellow mustard seed

hot sauce, to taste

salt and pepper, to taste

croutons (optional garnish)

In a large bowl (Baker suggests a wooden salad bowl) combine the yolks of the hard-boiled eggs (saving the whites) with oil and garlic, and beat with a whisk into a smooth paste. Add the lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce and mustard, and whisk until well combined. Mince the egg whites and add them to the bowl, then add the remaining ingredients, and stir well. Cover and chill for several hours. Garnish individual bowls with croutons at serving.

By Gamliel Kronemer