Roasted Beet Soup With Smoked Trout and Sour Cream

March 27, 2011

From Cleetus Friedman

Cleetus, the owner of City Provisions deli in Ravenswood,  is so awesome he not only brought this stunning soup, which had the magical power to send a seven-year-old boy back for THIRDS, he also brought me a turkey sandwich. Which I desperately needed later on that night. Here’s what he has to say about his soup:  “I grew up, like most kids, disliking beets.  When I started committing to cooking seasonally, I ran into the dreaded beet season.  This made me start working with them and having more fun with them.  These days, beet soup is not only one of my favorites, but something that will convert those like I was into beet lovers, too.  Although I like to garnish this soup with smoked trout and sour cream, you can use yogurt or croutons as well.”


¼ pound red beets (about 3 medium)
¼ pound golden beets
1 1/2 teaspoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 leek, chopped
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 cups water
1 small bay leaf
1 fresh thyme sprig
1 fresh parsley sprig
1/4 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons sour cream


Preheat oven to 350° F. Wrap beets in foil and roast until tender when pierced with fork, about 1 hour. Cool. Peel beets. Cut 1/4 of 1 beet into 1/4-inch cubes; reserve for garnish. Cut remaining beets into 1/2-inch pieces.

Melt butter with oil in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add leek, onion, and celery and cook until beginning to brown, stirring frequently, about 13 minutes. Stir in ginger, allspice, white pepper, and ½ inch beet pieces. Cook until vegetables begin to stick to bottom of pot, stirring frequently, about 7 minutes. Add 2 cups water, bay leaf, thyme sprig, and parsley sprig. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 25 minutes.

Strain soup through a chinois.

Cool soup slightly. Working in batches, puree soup in blender with cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made one day ahead. Cool slightly, cover, and refrigerate.)

Garnish with sour cream and shredded smoked trout, if you like.


Soup cooks, 3/30

March 26, 2011

Another jam-packed lineup this week, including:

Butcher Andrea Deibler, from City Provisions

Baker Allison Stout, from Hoosier Mama Pie Co.

Music maker Frank Orrall, from  Poi Dog Pondering, ETA: Frank is sick and had to cancel

Music sellers Mark and Heather Ferguson, from Hard-Boiled Records

Abra Berens, from Bare Knuckle Farm

Kathy Burke, Angela Sanka, and Anastasia LaBorde, from Twisted Dish

and we’ll also have a soup from Inspiration Corp., the beneficiaries this week of your soup largesse. Inspiration has been doing great work in Uptown and on the south side for years now, and have recently expanded to the west side with a new cafe in Garfield Park.

Musical accompaniment this week courtesy the lovely DJ Numinous Radio, aka Carolynn Travis, aka Chaka

See you there!

Sincerely yours, Soup & Bread

March 25, 2011

People talk a lot about “community building,” but in the case of Soup & Bread, I think what we’re up to could better be called “community revealing.” Building implies a master plan — a certain top-down intentionality. But on soup nights like the one this past Wednesday what happens in the back room of the Hideout is nothing more structured than the spontaneous illumination of pre-existing relationships whose true detail had been perhaps in shadow until the light of soup was shone upon them.

In that room there was a gardener who ran the program at the school where the parents’ children grew peppers. She was working on a new project with the editor, who was friendly with the social worker, who knew my friend the mom, who brought her friend the musician, who brought bread to donate to the table. The writer was working on a project with the editor, who lived up the street from the gardener, and used to work with the other writer, who was pals with the restaurateur, who had hired the bartender (the other bartender) to paint his shop. And, well, you get the gist. It was all very six-degrees-of-soup-separation.

It feels silly sometimes, writing about soup week after week.  Doubly so lately, because when not trying to find new ways to describe something that’s both very simple and yet, like all good communities, can be much more than the sum of its parts, I’m finishing up work on the new edition of the Soup & Bread Cookbook. A girl can only handle so many labored soup metaphors in a day.

But nights like this one make it not seem so silly after all. I often don’t get to experience Soup & Bread in the moment: there are drinks to be made, and ladles to be washed, and bread to be cut, and when it’s all over I just sit there and think, “Did that just really happen?” (My consistently terrible photo documentation doesn’t help, though I take some pride in being responsible for possibly the blurriest photos on the internet.) But this was really something, and even I could see that.

To a backdrop of tunes spun by Sound Opinions producers Robin Linn and Jason Saldanha, we had a densely complicated oden from Mike Sula, who came in disguise, and Elizabeth Gomez (above), who was in Japan most of last month and flew home from Tokyo the day after the earthquake. We had refreshing tomato, basil, and white bean soup from Laura Fox and her mother, Monica. Laura’s been helping me wrangle recipes for the cookbook for the last few months, and without her I would be lost. And we had a hearty white bean and smoked sausage soup from James Sapytka, who is a standup guy and friends with our equally standup, if elusive, door guy Al.

We had savory roasted onion soup from Sarah Steedman, and roasted beet soup from Cleetus Friedman, above in the apron — beet soup that had the ability to send a seven-year-old boy back for thirds. (A million thanks also to Cleetus for the sandwich, which I desperately needed later on.) We had ramen from Hugh Amano, next to Cleetus, whose support of Soup & Bread is only equalled by his superlative soup-making skills.

And we had not one but two soups — a tangy Pakistani chicken soup and a zesty Haitian “Independence Day” soup full of butternut squash — brought by the ladies from the Marjorie Kovler Center for Treatment of Survivors of Torture at the Heartland Alliance, the beneficiary of this weeks’ soup donations. We (by which I mean “you”) raised $570 on their behalf, and as staffer Mary Black wrote me later, “Most of the clients who come to Kovler are political asylum applicants who live without work authorization or access to government subsidies (such as a Link card) until they are granted asylum — this can take years! So having access to healthy food is primary, as you can imagine. $570 is a tremendous help!”

There are just three weeks left of Soup & Bread this year, and we’ve got some heavy hitters on the docket. More info to come about next week’s lineup. In the meantime, earnestly, honestly, thank you. Without you we’re nothing.

Sincerely yours,

Soup & Bread

Around the Pot, part 4: Re-Thinking Soup

March 22, 2011

While Upton Sinclair was researching The Jungle, the muckraking 1906 novel that exposed in grisly detail the dangers of the Chicago stockyards at the turn of the last century, he often stopped on Halsted Street to eat dinner in the Residents Dining Room at Hull House, the pioneering settlement house on Chicago’s near west side. Gertrude Stein dined there as well, and WEB DuBois, and Ida B. Wells – and so did hundreds of impoverished recent arrivals from Italy, Greece, Poland, Lithuania, and beyond.

Driven to improve the immigrants’ chances at a creating a better life in Chicago, Hull House founder Jane Addams and her fellow crusaders agitated against child labor and for safe housing and sanitary working conditions, and provided a social outlet for all comers. Hull House volunteers offered classes in literature and art; presented lectures and plays; served dinner and staged dances. And when they realized industrial workers nearby had nowhere to get a hot, healthy lunch, they brought the food to the factories – trucking over vats of soup from the Hull House kitchen and offering a bowl, plus a piece of bread and a cup of coffee, for just five cents.

They could have just started a soup kitchen, Lisa Lee — the executive director of what’s now the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago — told me, but Hull House was never a charity. “They expected people to donate something in return, whether it was their cultural capital, their social capital, or just the five cents. It was not a place where they were giving handouts.

“That’s where we came up with the name ‘Re-Thinking Soup,’ she adds. “Because it was about rethinking what it means to serve soup for free in world where people say there is no free lunch.”

Inspired in equal parts by Hull House’s legacy of outreach and by Slow Food guru Carlo Petrini’s dictum that engaged citizens should be “co-producers” of the food they eat, the museum’s Re-Thinking Soup program is, on it’s face, just that: a free lunch of soup — and bread — served every Tuesday in the historic Hull House dining room. But there’s more on the menu than just split peas. Each week Re-Thinking Soup also features programming designed to spark conversations about food, sustainability, nutrition, politics, and community. Speakers have included farmers and foodies; academics and activists. One week there might be a film on water preservation; another a beekeeper speaking on colony collapse distorder.

Artist Sarah Kavage (above) spoke in 2010 about her Industrial Harvest project tracing the role of the commodity wheat market in the global food system. At her Hull House talk she gave away five-pound bags of flour and urged recipients to cook with it, share the food with others, and then get back to her with news of what had become of it. (For more on her project, see my August 2010 story in the Chicago Reader.)

On a raw day earlier this month, it was standing-room only for Mari Gallagher‘s presentation on food deserts –  the popular (and somewhat controversial) term used to describe underresourced neighborhoods whose primary food sources tend toward convenience stores and fast food outlets. The long refectory tables were covered with brown butcher paper and set with pertinent reading matter, like Joan Dye Gussow’s This Organic Life and Marion Nestle’s What to Eat. Some lunchers, opting to take their carrot-ginger soup sans PowerPoint, carried their bowls outside and dined al fresco along the walkway connecting the dining hall to the Hull House Museum.

Carrot-ginger soup was on the menu for the very first Re-Thinking Soup as well. The carrots came from far away – Mexico maybe, or Chile – and were a strategic choice made to help facilitate discussion of the difference between local and organic foods, help diners understand the concept of food miles and, in the words of Hull-House Food Preservationist Tara Lane, “show how the carrot relates to us all.”

Re-Thinking Soup is the collective brainstorm of Lane, Lisa Lee, and another professional cook, Sam Kass. Kass turned the program over to Lane in 2009 when he moved to Washington DC to serve as the Obama family’s personal chef (a job he’d held for a while) and the administration’s Senior Policy Adviser for Healthy Food Initiatives. He’s famous now, the face of Michelle Obama’s White House vegetable garden and her campaign for healthy food for kids, but in the early 2000s Kass and Lane worked together at Blackbird, Paul Kahan’s pioneering fine-dining restaurant on Chicago’s Randolph Street restaurant row, not so far from Hull-House as the crow flies, but culturally an ocean away.

Kass was a line cook and Lane was the executive pastry chef, but both were interested in the bigger food picture, looking for ways to develop as activists and educators. “I wanted to stay in the conversation about food,” says Lane, “but I wanted to shift my focus to what was happening around food justice issues, and farming, and the distribution of local food. I was tired of spending endless hours just cooking.”

Lane, Kass, and Lee dug into the history of the settlement house and, specifically, its dining room, looking for ways to link food to Hull-House’s mission of education and social justice . What they came up with, was soup.

A museum is so much more than a repository of artifacts, says Lee, with vigor. “As cultural institutions we should be sites that foster radical democracy, that encourage dissent and conversations.”

Until 2006, she adds, the Arts and Crafts-style Residents’ Dining Hall, built in 1903, was off limits to the public. But at some point, Lee realized standard models of museum programming – lectures, gallery talks – had become a bore. “We were sick of doing like, ‘here’s the microphone’-type events,” she says. “It’s a dining hall, we have a kitchen, maybe we should actually be eating in it, you know?”

“When we first started it we just said, ‘Lets just make a pot of soup and see what happens,” says Lane. “We knew what we wanted to do, but we didn’t know how it would translate. I mean, we didn’t even know if people would show up!”

They did – and still do, UIC students and staff, foodies and the curious, and those just on the hunt for a hot lunch. One guy, who works on the university’s facilities staff, told me he tries to come every week, “for the camaraderie, and because you learn about good foods, and gardening — because they’re right, the food we eat sucks.”

Nowadays Lane is in charge of programming. Her sister Jess is the Hull-House chef, and handles the weekly soup, whose ingredients are often dictated by the harvest at the Hull House farm a block away. The farm, run by Ryan Beck, grows garlic, kale, tomatoes, cauliflower, and more – but it’s primarily an educational enterprise, rather than a true production farm.

“We use it as a teaching tool for telling the story of Jane Addams,” says Lane, citing a well-known bit of Addams lore, in which the well-bred reformer delighted in her first encounter with a strange bulb called garlic, thanks to an Italian neighbor who introduced her to spaghetti and ragu.

That bowl of spaghetti helped Addams understand that food was critical to understanding the immigrant experience. “It helped her come to grips with cultural difference,” says Lee, “and with the potential for bridging that difference – she realized that it was one potential avenue for social transformation.”

Now the Hull House farm grows 6,000 heads of garlic a year, and it’s used in the base of every soup.

Lane and Lee took Re-Thinking Soup to 2008’s Slow Food Nation in San Francisco, and to a museum conference in England in 2010, where they made 50 gallons of soup in one of Jaime Oliver’s kitchens and trucked it to the Victoria and Albert Museum as part of a talk about how museums can foster social change. Now the V&A and the Royal Academy of Arts are considering their own soup-based programs, as is the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York.

“We don’t want to treat the visitors here as just consumers of information,” says Lee. “Our value as human beings has been reduced to our value as consumers, and for us it’s like, well, how do you really value people as sentient human beings — as feeling, thinking, tasting, desiring human beings?”

Image sources: 1.  “Seven female social activists sitting and standing at a long table in a room,”  Chicago Daily News photographer, 1928. The digital image is archived at 2. Hull-House Museum. 3. my iPhoto account 4. 5. 6. 7.

Fennel Soup with a Swirl

March 22, 2011

From Bonnie Tawse
Serves 4-6

Up until she was 30 or so, Bonnie hated fennel because it smelled like black licorice. And, she says, “I loathe black licorice.” But then one summer afternoon, her brother-in-law, who is a farmer and caterer in Boulder, made a mess of sliced fennel that he caramelized and then sprinkled with shaved Parmesan. “I took a bite just to be a nice person and then had one of those transformative food moments. I said, ‘Wait, this is fennel? This is amazing.’ And since that afternoon I’ve been happy to try fennel in all sorts of preparations. I have a lot of lost time to make up.”

She got this recipe, adapted from one found in David Tanis’ cookbook Heart of the Artichoke, which was just nominated for a James Beard award, in a roundabout way thanks to the soup swap she hosted last month. A friend of a friend approached her at the gym and said, “I heard you had a soup swap! That is so cool! I love soup, I make soup all the time! I am so jealous I didn’t know about it.” She went on to praise the “bad-ass” fennel soup of their mutual friend, Tracey. Says Bonnie: “We got to talking, we talked about soup for almost an hour and then the next day she emailed me Tracey’s recipe.” The next week they wound up going to Re-Thinking Soup, at Hull House. “She had never been,” Bonnie says, “didn’t know it existed.”

Soup: It just keeps on giving.



1/4 cup olive oil
3 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed (reserving fronds), cored and cut into very thin slices
half of a large white onion, cut into thin slices
2 shallots, cut into thin slices
4 medium cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (raw) long-grain white rice
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth


1 cup coarsely chopped fennel fronds (from the fennel bulbs)
Leaves from 4 to 6 stems flat-leaf parsley (1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon capers, drained
1/2 cup packed basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped scallions, white and light-green parts
1/2 cup olive oil
freshly ground black pepper


Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the sliced fennel, onion, shallots, and garlic. Season generously with salt and pepper. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often, until the mixture has softened and picked up a little color.
Add the rice and the 6 cups of broth. Increase the heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed. Cook for 20 minutes.

Working in batches transfer the soup to a blender and puree; remove the center knob in the blender lid and place a dish towel over the opening to allow steam to escape. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into the pot that was used to cook the soup; discard any fibrous solids. Place over medium-low heat. If the consistency is too thick, add broth as needed.

While the soup is warming, make the green swirl: Rinse and dry the blender, then add the fennel fronds, parsley, capers, basil, scallions, oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Puree on high speed until smooth, then transfer to a small bowl. 
Ladle equal portions of soup into individual bowls, Swirl a tablespoon of the green puree into each bowl.

Soup cooks 3/23

March 17, 2011

Oooh, it’s going to be crowded on the soup line this week! In the house:

Chicago Reader food columnist Mike Sula and roller derby queen Elizabeth “Juanna Rumbel” Gomez

City Provisions empire-builder Cleetus Friedman

Food on the Dole writer and chef Hugh Amano

Artist/crafter Sarah Steedman

Former door guy Al’s friend James Sapyta (how’s that for networking?)

Writer and recipe-wrangler extraordinaire Laura Fox — and her mom

And two (and possibly three) soups contributed by volunteers from the Heartland Alliance’s Marjorie Kovler Center. Proceeds from this week’s Soup & Bread benefit the Kovler Center’s efforts to aid survivors of torture from around the world, and help them and their families build new lives in Chicago.

That is a * lot * of soup, folks. And don’t forget the bread, from our friends at La Farine Bakery. Musical entertainment provided by our DJs, Sound Opinions producers Robin Linn and Jason Saldanha.

See you there, then. Come hungry!

Soup & Bread: Extreme edition

March 17, 2011

OK, the “extreme” element of yesterday’s S&B refers not to the actual soup, which was tasty and plentiful, nor to the blessedly balmy weather, but to the apocalyptic streetscape that is currently the entrance to the Hideout. The city is putting in new sewer lines, and then repaving Wabansia Street, adding curbs, sidewalks, and allegedly a couple of trees. Trees! Come summer we should have a nice new patio, but right now it’s a godawful mess out there. So, kudos to everyone — including Jenny’s gallant grandpa — who gingerly walked that bouncy gangplank to come and get their soup on. We won’t even talk about what happened before you got there, when the guys putting in the sewer tried to turn off our water. Hideout co-owner Mike Hinchsliff and I vigorously talked them out of that. But, it may have been inhospitable outside, but inside our soup cooks more than made up for it. Above, far left in her chefs whites, is Susan Goss, chef and owner of West Town Tavern — who brought the pro game with a wild mushroom chowder served with utterly ridonkulous blue cheese croutons. Whoa. Next to her, kinda hidden, are Grant from Hull-House, dishing up carrot-ginger soup left over from their Re-Thinking Soup lunch Tuesday, and a volunteer from Ravenswood Community Services, with a hearty chicken chili. On their left is Bonnie Tawse, with fantastic fennel soup with a swirl of parsley-caper-scallion puree. Next to her is Gillian McLennan, with a vegan curried-carrot-and-coconut-milk soup (our new fave!) and Julia McDonald, from Peasants’ Plot, with a rustic potato leek. And here’s the view from the other side of the room, which includes the lovely Erin Drain, but does not capture her sisters in wine, Jane Lopes and Rachel Driver, who together make up Team Lush. They brought three soups: Cajun shrimp, corn, and potato chowder; a sumptuous pork pozole; and our second potato-leek of the day. It was pretty cozy back there at the soup table – and it will be like that from here on out, as all the procrastinators are now trying to get in on the soup action – but it was oh-so delicious. Thanks so much to all, and to our most charming DJ Matt Fields. Through their collective efforts we raised $290 for Lakeview Pantry. Hooray! Watch this space for news on next week’s terrific line-up, benefitting the Heartland Alliance’s Marjorie Kovler Center for survivors of torture.

Soup & Bread in action

March 15, 2011

Northwestern journalism student Jessica Chou did a little video report on Soup & Bread earlier this winter; I just found it on her blog. Vanity compels me to note that she made me take off my glasses, and I am going to blame that for my squinting and general awkwardness.

White Bean and Chicken Soup with Bacon

March 13, 2011

From Julie Sampson

Serves 14


1 pound white beans (I used cannellini)
6 cups water
bay leaf

2 carrots
2 celery ribs
1 large onion
4 or 5 strips of bacon (I used uncured thick-cut)
1 tablespoon dried or a few sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon dried or 1 sprig fresh rosemary
a couple of bay leaves
1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes
6 cups chicken stock (4 for soup, 2 for poaching)
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
salt and pepper to taste


Soak beans overnight or bring beans, water, and bay leaf to a boil, turn off, and cover for an hour. Then simmer beans until tender, about an hour and a half. Add salt.

Dice carrots, celery ribs, and onion. Chop bacon. Render bacon fat in a stock pot where you’ll cook the soup. Once bacon is brown, remove and set aside. Remove all but about 2 tablespoons of the rendered fat otherwise the soup will be greasy. Add carrot, celery, and onion, plus dry herbs (if using) and a bay leaf. Cook until onion is soft and translucent.

Add diced tomatoes, and saute for a few minutes, until the tomatoes start breaking down. Add 4 cups chicken stock and bring up to a boil. Turn down to simmer. Add beans and fresh herbs (if using; smash in your palm to release oils before adding) and put the pot in the fridge for a day.

The next day poach chicken thighs in 2 cups of chicken stock. This takes about 10 -15 minutes. Once cooked, remove from stock and shred the meat. Set aside the poaching liquid for your soup if it’s too thick.

Go get your stock pot with the soup and using an immersion blender whiz the soup and beans a little. Add the chicken meat and bring the whole thing back to a boil. You can add the bacon (it gets soft) or use it as a garnish before serving. Check the seasonings, remove bay leaves and herbs and serve.

Greek Avgolemono

March 13, 2011

From Helen Tsatsos
Serves 16

Light, creamy, and kissed with lemon, this is the ultimate Greek comfort soup. Says Helen, “My mom and my yiaya (grandma) used to make this all the time. It’s very easy and can be whipped up in a hurry with minimal effort. It is light but thanks to the protein in the eggs, filling. Sometimes they would substitute either lamb meatballs (kefthedes), artichoke bottoms, or stuffed grape leaves (domathes) for the shredded chicken.” I didn’t get a good picture of the soup, but check out Helen’s pretty sign!

8 cups chicken broth
3 medium eggs
1/2 cup rice.
juice from two lemons
1 cup cooked shredded chicken
salt to taste

Bring chicken broth to a boil. Add rice or orzo, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
In a blender, beat the three eggs until aerated, then slowly add the lemon juice to the eggs. With blender running, slowly add one cup of chicken broth. The constant blending is the secret to preventing curdling.
When the eggs and broth are well mixed, pour this mixture back into the remaining broth and rice. Add shredded chicken.
Stir well over heat, but do not allow to boil. Salt to taste.