Sunday, July 21, 2013

Gazpacho: for Cook the Books: "How to Cook a Wolf" by M.F.K. Fisher and for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

Recently I made  a vow to stop making soups for my Cook the Books entries. Basically because for the last five book selections for this bi-monthly virtual foodie book club I co-host, I made soup for four of them. What can I say? I make a soup every week. Soup is love, soup is comfort. Soup often best represents what a book makes me feel or is the food I gravitate to in a book. Our June/July Cook the Books pick is "How to Cook a Wolf" by famous food writer M.F.K. Fisher and hosted by Simona of Briciole and I find myself again making soup. 

"How to Cook a Wolf" is a series of essays first published in 1942, during wartime, when money was tight and ingredients often rationed or scarce. Fisher's book offer up witty and insightful tips for making the most out of what was available, while still enjoying the pleasures of a good meal. There are all manner of recipes woven in Fisher's advice and storytelling in chapters like How Not to Boil an Egg, How to Keep Alive, How to Make a Great Show, and How to Comfort Sorrow. At times funny, at times poignant, always insightful, Fisher has a great ability to bring her writing to life, not matter what decade you are reading it in.

The book offers up plenty of inspiration for the kitchen. I was tempted to try Fisher's version of Tomato Soup Cake--something I actually tried a few years ago back in my early days of blogging for a retro recipe challenge. I was tempted by the Hawaiian Shrimps recipe because I love old-school local-style recipes like it. But, it was the chapter titled How to Boil Water--that I kept going back to. The chapter discusses "the natural progression from boiling water to boiling water with something in it" and making soup. To me, soup is the quintessential food to make in times of need or ration. It is comforting, filling, can be added to to feed more bellies and can be easily made from leftovers. 

Fisher offers several soup recipes in the chapter but I kept going back to the Gazpacho, which was slightly different from most of the other gazpacho recipes I have tried. More of a thick, herby "marinade" of ingredients according to Fisher. It sounded perfect for a humid weekend and thus I am making soup for Cook the Books yet again! 

Fisher says, "Within the past few years I have found myself involved in a discussion, esoteric as well as practical, about the correct way to make a gazpacho. I still stay loyal to this recipe, while accentuating the fact that it, like rules for all good native soups, can vary with each man who makes it."

It was Fisher's prose about Gazpacho that sold me on it:

"This gazpacho can be altered to fit what comes from the garden, but it should always have oil and garlic and lemon juice and herbs rubbed heavily together (this is the important trick: a kind thick marinade, really, of the macerated herbs, oil, acid...) and onion and some other vegetable floating around in it; and it should be very cold indeed. Then it is a perfect summer soup, tantalizing, fresh, and faintly perverse as are all primitive dishes eaten by too-worldly people."

"It is especially good if you have a barbecue, and want some legitimate and not too alcoholic way to keep your guests busy while you turn the steak: put a big tureen of it on the table, and let them serve themselves into cups, and eat toasted crusts with it if you want to." [I always see to it that I have made too much gazpacho. It ripens well, when kept chilled, and is a soul-satisfying thing to drink, chilled, midway in a torrid morning. It is also one of the world's best breakfasts for unfortunates who are badly hung over.]"    

Adapted from How to Cook a Wolf, MFK Fisher

1 generous mixed handful of chives, chervil, parsley, basil, marjoram... any or all but fresh. (I used parsley, marjoram, basil, chives and tarragon)
1 garlic clove
1 sweet pepper, pimiento or bell
2 peeled and seeded tomatoes
1 small glass olive oil (or really flavorful nut oil or substitute)
juice of 1 lemon
1 mild onion, sliced paper thin
1 cup diced cucumber
salt and pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs

Chop the herbs and mash thoroughly with the garlic, pepper and tomatoes, adding the oil very slowly and the lemon juice.  Add about 3 glasses of cold water [I still say this is the correct liquid. But often I use good meat or fish stock.] or as much as you wish. Put in the onion and cucumber, season, sprinkle with bread crumbs, and ice for at least 4 hours before serving. 

Notes/Results: Cold, crisp and refreshing. I love the "herby" taste of this version of gazpacho--the tomatoes and juice are a player in the soup but unlike many gazpachos, the herbs really are the star here. This is a great soup to make after a trip to the farmers market. The freshness of the local ingredients adds a lot to the flavor. I think it tastes best after at least a day--allowing all the flavors to meld. Although I wasn't hung over as the "unfortunates" that Fishers mentions, it still made a tasty breakfast on a warm morning, especially when accompanied by pieces of grilled garlic bread. I would make this again.

This round of Cook the Books ends on Monday, July 29th and Simona will be doing a round up at the CTB site, shortly after. If you missed out this round, consider joining us for August/September when our book will be the novel, "The Baker's Daughter" by Sarah McCoy, hosted by Heather at girlichef.

Now let's visit the Souper Sundays kitchen and see who is here.

Joyce from Kitchen Flavours is here with Giada's Chicken Stew and says, "Made this Chicken Stew and have seen the many good reviews about it. It was delicious. I have however added in one Russet potato since it is sitting in my pantry basket begging to be used! And since I have a can of black-eyed beans, I used that instead of kidney beans.
The kids love this Chicken Stew. I, myself rather enjoyed it! Just a bowl by itself and it makes a filling lunch. There's no leftovers!"

Janet of The Taste Space shares a Zesty Lemon Cilantro Chickpea Salad and says,"Super simple: mix and marinate. It looks uninspiring but it was a nice balance between the tart lemon, fresh cilantro and sharp garlic. Lemon zest? Well, without my zester, I shaved off the lemon peel and chopped it with a knife instead. However, the zest in this salad is from the garlic, not the lemon zest. The garlic was stronger when I originally made it, but it tamed itself for leftovers, which made it perfect for lunch. It was also delicious overtop mixed greens for a more green salad."

Tigerfish of Teczcape - An Escape to Food made this Arugula Apricot Salad and says, "Salad is a great way to balance out the heat from grilled (outdoor grilling, BBQ) food. As with more grilled foods, salads are also perfect cut-the-grease (or cut-the-guilt?) accompaniments or should I say, a complementary balance of clean and fresh flavors to the charred smoky grilled items."

Mireille of Chef Mireille's Global Creations brings Cilantro Pesto Cole Slaw and says, "From my experience cooking at a nursery school, I can tell you children will eat salads and vegetables if it's introduced as soon as they start eating solid foods. ... In this version of cole slaw, I added the sweetness by using sweet gherkins, which is a perfect example of sweet and acidic that my nursery school kids seemed to love!"

Elizabeth of The Law Student's Cookbook is back with these Mediterranean Burgers and says, "The 30th book on my shelf was The Mixer Bible, a book I got when I first got my KitchenAid stand mixer. I haven’t used this book nearly as much as I should. I like that it teaches techniques with the mixer. Page 30 had two recipes: Hummus and Roasted Garlic Hummus. I decided to go with the Roasted Garlic variety. It was good, but I think it actually needed more garlic. I spread it on the bun of this burger and YUM!"  

Thanks to everyone who joined in this week. if you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week! 


  1. I see no reason to stop the soup love! Unless it is the summer, since that is when I have reverted to mainly salads. ;)

  2. Pam Armstrong GreerJuly 21, 2013 at 1:30 PM

    I don't see anything wrong with making soups - anytime you feel like it!

  3. What an interesting book! If I have this book, I would also definitely pay a lot of attention on the chapter on boiling water.
    Gazpacho is a lovely summer soup...I love it! This recipe is a bit different from the recipe I have, but I loved this, because it is simple and herby!

  4. This does sound like a breath of fresh air! And I'm definitely going to have to try it as a hangover cure lol.

  5. www.teczcape.blogspot.comJuly 22, 2013 at 10:25 AM

    The gazpacho sounds so refreshing esp during hot summertime.

  6. Keep making these beautiful soups!

  7. Oh I love a nice Gazpacho, and it would be perfect for this humid Flossie storm weather. Good choice Deb.

  8. Lovely choice. I considered trying it, but then the curiosity about the tomato soup cake won. It is still in my to-do list and your review makes me even more eager to taste it. Thank you so much for your contribution to Cook the Books Club!

  9. Soup is always a great option when discussing great foodie literature. Good choice for Cook the Books!


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