This month our booksellers are cooking up a seven course feast to highlight the many new cookbooks hitting our shelves in time for the holidays. Join us as we chronicle our ambitious culinary undertakings here on the BookPeople blog. From cocktails to side dishes to dessert, we’ll share our adventures investigating a wide variety of new cookbooks, all of which will add up to one eclectic meal.
For today’s post, Sutterfield made Old Ikarian Tomato-Acorn Soup from Ikaria: Lessons on Food, Life and Longevity from the Greek Island Where People Forget to Die
~post by Sutter
I have had a number of conversations with friendswho believe that food is more or less a waste of time. Sure they enjoy it, but mostly they resent the way it runs their lives, and several of them have confessed that if given the option of consuming the nutrients they needed to live in the form of a tan-colored shake, they would take it. That’s their prerogative, of course, and I suppose even I’ve had times, especially when faced with cooking on a day when I’d rather do anything else, that I might be tempted…but mostly, y’all…mostly, I think there’s a lot more to food than nutrients. So I am always thankful that during November so many of us turn our attentions to cooking a Great Meal and sitting down to a table with our family and friends to share bread (with or without gluten). Food is life, yes. Food is also love, culture, family. Food is living.
And from what I can tell, the people of Ikaria, a small Greek island in the Aegean Sea, go about living quite well, and for quite some time it seems. Ikaria is a “Blue Zone,” one of those pockets of the world where people seem to thrive for longer and in more robust repair than elsewhere. These areas of the world are fascinating, certainly, and Iam also an unabashed fan of Greek food, so it was easy to choose Ikaria: Lessons on Food, Life and Longevity from the Greek Island Where People Forget to Die to highlight this month as we BookPeople cook our way through to Turkey Day.
My assignment: Soup. My choice: Old Ikarian Tomato-Acorn Soup / Hilos me Tomata kai Velanidia
I love soup, but I also wanted to try something I’d never tried before, and what says autumnal more than acorns?
Granted, acorns are not the most omnipresent of foodstuffs in our contemporary culture, but they are not by any means a new food. A variety of cultures have used acorns in cooking for thousands of years. They are not only tasty, they are quite healthy (and for those of you playing Paleo Bingo at home…they are, in fact, gluten-free), once they have been properly prepared by soaking/leaching away their abundance of untasty and super bitter tannins. And, wonderfully, there are a number of kind souls out in the world who process acorns this way and who are willing to sell a certain lady bookseller / blogger a pound of acorn flour via the miracle of the internets. Voila! I found myself in possession of a bag of ground acorns. I assembled my ingredients.
Blessedly, while the ingredients for the soup were a bit obscure, the process itself was quite simple. It began as so many delicious dishes begin, with the chopping of an onion:
I had not actually acquired the requisite amount of tomatoes for the next phase of the job and felt momentarily bereft, but then I discovered that the intrepid spouse, genius that he is, had anticipated my failings and had stashed some canned tomatoes in the pantry. In the past, I’ve poked good-natured fun at the intrepid spouse for his strangely iron-clad belief that the pantry should never, ever be without at least two cans of tomatoes at any given time, but hey, when I needed them, they were there. I am quite aware that I owe the intrepid spouse and his canned tomatoes an apology. It turned out to be a lovely homemade tomato puree, I’m sure you’ll agree:
The recipe also called for some sprigs of fresh herbs, and as luck would have it, we are currently overrun with such things here at our humble manse, so after a quick trip out to the garden with shears I had a beautiful bouquet garni of oregano, basil, and thyme, and my mise en place was complete:
Things moved rather quickly from here. I sauteed the onions (have you noticed that the smell of onions cooking in olive oil may be one of the best smells ever?), after which I added the acorn flour and the tomato puree:
After everything mixed together, I added the water and the herbs along with some salt and pepper to taste, and then it was just a matter of letting it all cook for about 20 minutes or so:
The soup was a beautiful autumn brown and looked lovely served with a swirl of olive oil and a sprig of oregano:
And, because it was lunchtime, I served myself this beautiful bowl of earthy, rich tomato soup with a little bit of pan-roasted fish and some sauteed radishes and greens in garlic. And that, y’all, was one fancy, delicious lunch:
Food is living. And I am thankful for that.
All books mentioned in this post are available via bookpeople.com and on the shelves at BookPeople (603 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin, Texas).
Next course: Appetizers!