Posts Tagged ‘Mike Sula’

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


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!

Slovak Mushroom-Sauerkraut Soup

February 15, 2010

From Mike Sula/Chicago Reader

[Ed: Mike adapted this recipe from one provided by his father’s cleaning lady, Barb Sambroak, who in turn got it from her sisters. It is a real soup of extremes: both very shroomy and very sour. Mike used dried shiitake mushrooms, but you can experiment with varieties. And if it’s too sour for your liking, adjust the proportion of stock to kraut juice – or just plop in some more sour cream.]


3/4 pounds dried mushrooms
4 cans Frank’s Kraut Juice (order online)
8 1/2 cups beef stock
2 large onions, roughly chopped
1/4 pound bacon, diced
2 cups sauerkraut, chopped fine
1/4 cup Maggi seasoning sauce
1/4 cup flour (optional)
1/4 cup butter (optional)
sour cream


Soak the mushrooms overnight in warm water. Drain, reserving some of the shroomy liquid. Rinse, then squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Coarsely chop.

Make a roux by melting the butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the flour and stir continuously until the mixture is smooth, the color is nutty brown, and the taste of raw flour is gone (be careful—it’s ridiculously hot). Set aside to cool.

Saute the bacon in the bottom of your soup pot, rendering out as much fat as possible. Add the onions and cook slowly on low heat until they start to caramelize. Add mushrooms and stir for a few minutes until heated through. Repeat with the sauerkraut. Add the stock and kraut juice and simmer for an hour and a half. Add the Maggi, salt, and pepper to taste. If it’s too sour add some mushroom broth.

If you like a thicker soup. Stir in some of the roux until it takes on the viscosity you prefer. Serve garnished with sour cream and dill.

Week 6

February 13, 2010

L-R: Hugh, Roger, Robin, Kelly, the masked souper

Thanks to the snow we had a small but cheery turnout this week — which just meant there was plenty of soup to go around! And, thanks to my poor communication skills, we were down one soup from the planned six, but, thankfully, Mike Sula covered the gap with a surprise second soup that … well … I think he’s going to write about it eventually so I’ll won’t steal his thunder. Let’s just say it was a Soup and Bread first. And very boney.

Mike’s already provided the recipe and backstory for his other soup, a Slovak mushroom-sauerkraut concoction adapted from a recipe pinched by his father’s cleaning lady from her sisters-in-law, over on the Reader’s food blog. I’ll get that up over here  whenever I get over this godawful cold and manage to dig out from under a sudden avalanche of recipes. Not that I’m complaining. Bring on the recipes!

Also on deck:

The talented and eloquent Hugh Amano, of Food on the Dole, with a pork dumpling soup built around a Frankenstein’s stock of pork neck, chicken bones, extra lamb stock, and dashi.

Personal chef Roger Greene, with Linguisa Sausage, Cheddar Cheese, and Oranjeboom Lager Beer Soup, possibly the most snowstorm-friendly pot ever.

The Vegetarian Librarian Kelly Reiss, with not just a hearty vegan white bean soup but delicious vegan cornbread and adorable preprinted recipe cards to boot. The recipe’s already up on her own blog, over here.

And, last but not least, Sound Opinions producer and soup fan Robin Linn, whose roasted garlic soup with spinach and Parmesan was really terrific. In her words, “Not suitable for Valentine’s Day, but great for colds.” I wish I had some right now.

We also had a dense, rich chocolate tart baked by Celeste, and lots of bread donated by our friends at La Farine Bakery on Chicago Avenue, as well as breads and cheesecakes from Rae Hill and her fellow students at Illinois Institute of Art. Rae’s given me a pile of bread recipes to transcribe, and let me tell you the very first one is going to be for the amazing Parmesan bread. Seriously, Rae. People were moaning.

As I said, it was a mellow crowd, but those who did manage to dig out and make it to the bar also dug deep into their pockets. I was pleasantly surprised to empty the donations bucket and find $250 in there. It’s all going to Casa Catalina, the food pantry run by Holy Cross/Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Back of the Yards. Thanks, y’all.

See you next week!

Soup cooks 2/10/10

February 5, 2010

We’re kickin’ it old school at Soup and Bread this week, with the return of some soup-savvy veterans from 2009. On deck are:

Sound Opinions producer Robin Linn (best known for last year’s hit, Wild Mushroom Soup, found on page 90 of the cookbook)

Chicago Reader food writer Mike Sula (Kimchi Chigae, p. 16)

Food on the Dole‘s Hugh Amano (Cabbage and Kielbasa Soup, p. 21)

Artist and high school teacher Susannah Kite Strang, (Dubiously Bulgarian Tomato Soup With Couscous Dumplings, p. 96)

Dinner is Solved personal chef Roger Greene (Deli-Style Sweet and Sour Soup with Shredded Flank Steak, p. 8)

and our favorite documentarian, the Vegetarian Librarian Kelly Reiss* (Spring Vegetable Soup, p. 98)

What will they make this time around? Can they avoid the sophomore slump? Tune in and find out on Wednesday, February 10, at the Hideout.

*Go  here for an awesome video account of Kelly’s soup-making adventures last year.

Shorpa aadas and Marak bamia

February 23, 2009


From Mike Sula

[Says Mike: These two Iraqi soups were made by Khawla Shuhayib, who doesn’t use recipes. They were adapted with a a little help from the Iraqi Family Cookbook by Kat Karim. A shorpa, according to Khawla’s husband Najim, is typically a thin, water- or stock-based soup. In the Shuhayib’s home of Basra, this one is typically sold on the street and eaten for breakfast.]

Shorpa aadas (Red lentil soup)
2 cups red lentils, boiled until soft, drained
12 cups vegetable stock
vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 ½ teaspoon curry powder
1 ½ teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
salt to taste

Saute onions in vegetable oil until soft. Add curry powder and cumin.

Add lentils, cover with water and stir until smooth.  Simmer ten minutes. Add salt to taste.


Marak bamia (okra soup)

[Says Mike: “A marak, according to Najim, is typically thicker than a shorpa, often made with tomatoes, closer to a stew than a soup.”]

[Says I: “This was fantastic!”]

3 pounds lamb neckbones
2 package of frozen okra, thawed, cut into one inch pieces
12 oz. can tomato sauce
6 oz can tomato paste
half head of crushed garlic
vegetable oil
2 liters water
2 tsp salt

Boil lamb neckbones until tender. Drain, return to pot, add okra and sautte gently in oil for a few minutes, Add tomato sauce, paste, and water, bring up to heat stirring gently occasionally. Add garlic. Simmer ten minutes. Serve with rice.

Kimchi chigae

January 30, 2009

From Mike Sula

Serves 16

[Says Mike: Kimchi chigae is infinitely variable—the Korean version of back-of-the-refrigerator soup.  You can add anything you like, tofu, seafood, beef, pork belly—hot dogs and Spam became popular after GIs introduced them to Korea. The only essentials are liquid—water will do—and kimchi, preferably, the old stuff, super sour and fermented until fizzy.]

I used . . . 

6 lbs. pork neckbones

stock vegetables—an onion, head of garlic, halved on the equator, peeled carrot, a couple celery stalks, red bell pepper

1/2 gallon kimchi, appx. 2 months old

1 lb. bulgogi (sliced, marinated beef, like Korean Italian beef)

3 tbs. gochuchang (Korean red pepper paste), or to taste

2 bunches green onions, cut into two-inch pieces

2 packages firm tofu, pressed under plates, drained, and cut into half-inch dice

Roast the neckbones at 350 degrees for one hour. Cover with water in a large stockpot and simmer at the lowest possible heat for 4 to 8 hours. At the last hour add the stock vegetables. Strain though cheesecloth, spoon off the fat, discard the solids.

Stir fry the bugolgi, until heated through. Add it and the kimchi with its juice, and the red pepper paste to about a gallon and a half of stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for an hour or so. Add the tofu and onions during the last 20 minutes.

Add cooked rice or noodles if you like.


Soupfest 2009

January 30, 2009


mulefoot pozole

So, I hear the all-stars are cooking tonight, right?”

So said an early bird at the bar this Wednesday, and boy, howdy, was he right. Guest chefs Mike, Mike, and David all brought their A-games to the pot. Sula’s kimchi chigae was — once we got it heated up enough — a potent, pungent stew of light pork broth and grandma’s homemade kimchi. Gebert delivered a chickpea — or “hummus” — soup whose humble vegetarian trappings were quickly exposed as fraudulent, as one taste revealed it to be built on a smoky bacon stock, (And, just in case you were still confused, Mike also provided crispy bits of jamon iberico as a topping.) Hammond produced the promised mulefoot pozole (pictured above), a rich and rustic take on the Mexican classic.

But that wasn’t all! We realized early this week that, thanks to a perfect storm of factors, we’d be wise to expect a larger-than-usual crowd. So in addition to rounding up stalwart Swim Cafe for yet another veggie contribution — this time in the form of “Moroccan Soul,” a hearty, spicy pot full of chickpeas, spinach, olives, and I’m not sure what else — I also whipped up an impromptu “stone soup,” and Katie tapped the soup bar at Whole Foods for some quite tasty vegetarian minestrone. Which, you know — not the usual Soup and Bread m.o., but why quibble when people are hungry?

And hungry they were. We were completely out of soup by 7 PM. Apologies to anyone who showed up later and was left to knaw on crusts of bread. I have yet to figure out the perfect algorithm of soup + people, but I know it’s out there. 

This week’s donations: $185. Thanks to one and all.

Recipes coming soon, like later today. These guys are on. The. Ball.

Guest soup chefs, Jan 28

January 23, 2009

Coming up next week we’ve got a three-way soup smackdown, when some of my favorite food writers step up to the crock. On the docket:

Chicago Reader columnist Mike Sula
Peripatetic freelancer David Hammond
Sky Full of Bacon’s Mike Gebert

Because all three of these guys are notorious for their enthusiastic pursuit of carnivorous pleasures — and it would be criminal for anyone to go hungry — we’re also bringing back the delicious vegetarian soup skills of Swim Cafe. Let’s just see if they can top the creamy potato-carrot and Fiesta de la Fiesta of weeks gone by.