When asked once if he had read a particular best-selling book, Irish writer Brian Nolan sniffed: "I have not; when I want to read something, I'll write it first, thank you."
Not exactly the case with Russell Fehr, but close. When he was unable to find a cookbook that included a recipe for a particular Greek soup, he wrote one that did.
Fehr, 62, a La Habra optician who says he has "played around" in the kitchen most of his life--"or at least since I was about 9 and my mother taught me how to make a cake"--was dining with a daughter at a Greek restaurant in San Pedro and fell in love with avgolemono. After a futile attempt to find a recipe for the soup, through trial and error he duplicated it and added it to his growing file.
Then, several years ago, he privately published his collection in a 236-page book, "Soup for Everyone." In addition to the Greek soup, the book pretty much runs the international gamut of both cold and hot soups, from stocks to bisques, along with a list of shortcuts.
His personal favorites from the book--Sheridan's Seafood Bisque (named for married daughter Rozlin Sheridan) and the Greek soup--appear with his permission at the end of this column.
While Fehr modestly says his wife of 41 years, Ruth, is the "real cook" in the family--"fabulous, as a matter of fact"--she warns him to brush up on more than soup as they both near retirement (she is the assistant superintendent of the La Habra City School District). "I did the cooking for the first 41 years," she says, "and I'm expecting him to do for the second 41 years."
Obviously, they are a pretty good team, except in the kitchen, where, he says, "we've avoided problems for a good many years by staying out of each other's way. We don't cook together; either she prepares the meal or I do.
"I don't like her messing around with my stuff, and she doesn't like me messing around with her stuff."
The exception to the rule comes, he says, when they are preparing for one of their frequent family get-togethers with their three daughters, their husbands and a total of five grandchildren. "We will assign certain dishes to each other that can be prepared ahead of time, but Ruth does the main work because I have never mastered the art of serving five or six dishes all at once."
RUSS FEHR'S SHERIDAN SEAFOOD BISQUE AND AVGOLEMONO SOUP
Sheridan Seafood Bisque Ingredients
4 cobs fresh corn
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup raw cashew nuts
1 cup water
1 medium potato, diced and cooked
1 5-ounce can water chestnuts, drained and sliced
2 6 1/2-ounce cans clam meat, chopped
2 3.6-ounce cans smoked baby clams
6 ounces cooked shrimp
1 quart milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut corn from cobs and cook until tender. Brown onion in butter in small skillet. In an electric blender, blend half the corn, onion and cashews with a cup
of water. Combine all ingredients and remainder of corn in 3-quart saucepan and heat thoroughly, being careful not to boil. (Serves 6.)
Avgolemono Soup Ingredients
6 cups water with 4 teaspoons of chicken bouillon concentrate or 48 ounces canned chicken bouillon
1 cup cooked rice
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, strained
Grated rind of 2 lemons
Bring broth to simmer, but do not boil. Stir in rice. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, lemon juice and rind. Stir in 1/2 cup hot broth. Stir into pot of broth with other ingredients. Do not boil. Can be served hot or cold. (Serves 6.)