Posts Tagged ‘Sheila Sachs’

Summer soup: It’s a hit

July 7, 2011

Last night’s Summer Soup & Bread Spectacular was just that. Spectacular weather, spectacular turnout, spectacular, delicious, colorful, cold soups.

Thanks so very much to Nightwood, City Provisions, Big Star, Swim Cafe, Milk & Honey, Celestial Kitchens, Tre Kronor, Mana Food Bar, Guerrilla Smiles Catering, Inspiration Kitchens, Graham Elliot, and the lovely Anastasia for all their contributions. Thanks as well to Bonnie Tawse, Sheila Sachs, Laura Park, and Sarah Dandelles for doing ladle duty. And to Michael Slaboch for DJing (and soup wrangling). And to La Farine for so much delicious bread.

And of course, many, many thanks to all who came out to show their support. We shattered all previous S&B fundraising records last night, generating a whopping $2684 on behalf of the Garfield Park Conservatory. That won’t buy them a new roof, but it might buy a couple panes of glass, right? At least a half-dozen Conservatory staff were in attendance and they were very grateful for such a joyful end to what has been just an all-around terrible week.



And so, again, the end

April 20, 2011

I’ve had a hard time, this past week, to find the juice to recap our final Soup & Bread of the 2011 Soup Season. I may be in denial. Can it really all be over again, already? (The craptastic, if soup-suitable, winter storms of the last few days haven’t helped.) But, finally, I busted out my camera and zipped the photos from last Wednesday into my laptop. I now share them, for the public good.

My first stop on last Wednesday’s soup circuit involved neither soup, nor bread, but pie. Hoosier Mama pie, to be precise. Above, the lovely Rae Hill helps load up the Jeep with box after box of apple, sugar cream, and chocolate chess pies. Thank you Rae!

Next stop, just down the street, was La Farine, stalwart and generous donors of loaf upon loaf of crusty ciabatta and other breadstuffs all winter long. Many many thanks to Michelle, Rida, and the whole crew for their ongoing support.

And then: the Hideout!

It was, as I mentioned, our third annual, now-traditional end-of-the-line Soup & Pie night, with pies wrangled from all manner of contributors by the scrumptious Sheila Sachs. Here’s just one specimen, from overachieving Sarah Gardiner, who did double duty last week as both baker and DJ. Sarah got bumped from her DJ slot by the Great Blizzard of Early February, so DJ Mike “Treetop Lover” Bulington invited her to share the booth with him last week. They brought the deep cuts, and I think Bulington may have landed himself a sweet freelance gig as a result to boot. Thanks Mike and Sarah!

Of course, some participants refused to be bound by the strict genre rules of Soup & Bread & Pie. Witness, above, the outside-the-pie-box brilliance of Swim Cafe‘s PBR cupcakes. Which I loved all the more because Bonnie saw them and read not as “PBR” but “bloodshot eyeball cupcake.” Or, as Anastasia said, “put a plaid shirt on one and you’ve got the hipster trifecta at Pitchfork.”

Regardless of your feelings about cheap beer and its place in pastry, many thanks are also due to everyone at Swim for their ongoing support of Soup & Bread. Not only did Karen Gerod bring the cafe’s fab artichoke, leek, and pea soup this week, but over the last three months I’ve relied on Swim staffers Dianna Ryan and Ellyn Biko for help with S&B set up. They have wrangled more than enough folding chairs and sliced their share of bread this winter, and I salute them. Thanks Swim team!

And, of course, there was soup. So much soup. Above, Paul Kahan grates a mess of fresh Parmesan into a hearty pot of ribollita. I was bugging him for his thoughts on soup that night (as I’m working out some currently incoherent thoughts on the ways soup can inspire cooks) and after prodding him he finally confessed that for all the showstopping technique on display at Blackbird — where, for example, a recent soup featured sumac falafel, pickled Asian pears, and caramelized egg yolk —  he’d really rather be eating peasant food like this. It was really, really good. And, kudos to the chefs for leaving behind the rest of their grilled bread, which made an excellent late-night snack.

And it was chefs, plural, behind the ribollita — Kahan gives all the credit for its execution to Publican chef de cuisine Brian Huston, on the left there, with the PBR. On their right are Soup & Bread newbies Rob and Allie Levitt, formerly of Mado, currently of the Butcher and Larder. They brought a devastating Scotch Broth, and I’m going to pester Rob relentlessly until he gives up the recipe.  He did provide a verbal rundown on his stock secret. In a word: Sugo. Popularized by Paul Bertolli in his primer Cooking By Hand, sugo is a method of extracting intense, concentrated flavor from bones and juices and those bottom of the pan scrapings that might foolishly get thrown away.

To make the explosively rich stock for the Scotch Broth (above), he said, “You roast the bones, and then cover them with water and cook it and skim it and reduce it down until it’s super concentrated from, say two gallons to one quart of liquid. Then you add water and reduce it  again, over and over again, across a period of weeks.” By the end he had two quarts of lamb stock that was so concentrated “it looked like a superball  — it was like caramel when you heated it up.” Beyond that, though, I am desperately seeking further instruction. Stand by.

Elsewhere on the soup line we had a mulligatawny soup from Marie Marasovich, a spicy fish soup from Susannah Kite Strang, and a classic split pea with oodles of ham from Annie Coleman. Sadly for me, but good for the rest of you, I only got to taste that last one. The others were gone before I could get my bowl in line. But all told it was an excellent night, full of these serendipitously weird intersections of scenes and relationships that run amok at Soup & Bread. I’m sure we’re not unique in this — but I’d like to think it’s something in the soup. And, did I mention we raised somewhere in the vicinity of $500 for the Common Pantry?

And then, it was time to pack up the crock pots and go home. It’s sad to see it end, of course — it’s going to be really quiet behind the bar today — but there’s plenty more to keep us busy until soup season rolls around again. For one, we are putting the finishing touches on the new revised and expanded and spiffed-up Soup & Bread Cookbook, due out in November from Agate Publishing.* And don’t worry there’ll be a whole lot more on that down the road.

Until then, though, heartfelt thanks to the Hideout — in particular owners Tim, Katie, Mike, and Jim, and the awesome Wednesday crew, early and late, of Ryan, Brandy, Nick, Jennifer, Ben, Andrea, and Mitch — for all their help and support. And thanks to Ariel Bolles for gamely staffing our merch table, to Bonnie Tawse for wrangling recipes, to Laura Fox for all her organizational help, and to everyone who has ever cooked soup, baked bread, crusted a pie, lent us an iPod, and donated time, money, and good cheer to this preposterous little project. You are all Soup & Bread; without you we’d just be playing Scrabble alone in an empty pub.

*And don’t forget about our ongoing Soupscription program! Get in on the limited-edition recipe action now, and get a jump on your neighbors.

About last night

January 6, 2011

This photo rather says it all. We had a stunning, record turnout for the start of Soup & Bread 2011. I don’t know how many people were packed into the soup line there, but my immense thanks to one and all for a) coming and b) being so patient as we worked out the glitches in our soup service and then, of course, ran out of soup.  At 6:45. I credit the collective good humor of the soup fans of Chicago from saving us from an ugly scene. And, the lack of food didn’t stop the crowd from generously filling the donations bucket: We raised a record $669 dollars last night, all of which is going to the Casa Catalina Basic Human Needs Center at Holy Cross/Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Back of the Yards.

Our soup cooks and helpers bore the brunt of the onslaught. I can’t speak to their culinary prowess —  I got about three bites of food all night — but I’d like to just thank them once again for stepping up as guinea pigs as we gear up for three new months of soup. They were patient, helpful, and compiled a list of suggestions for ways we could help things run more smoothly that I’m going to implement next week. (Thanks to Anastasia, above, who brought a black bean soup with cumin yogurt, for serving as secretary!)

Celeste and Devon brought a chicken noodle soup, one of the few I did get to sample. Overachievers that they are, they also brought two cakes and a plate of whoopie pies. Other cooks, who managed to escape my camera, were Tom V. Ray (chili), Brian Ferguson (doro wat), Swim Cafe (carrot-ginger soup), and a Soup & Bread newbie, Debbie Baer, who delivered her own take on potato-leek soup.

Soup & Bread’s always been a community endeavor, but never so much so as last night. We would not have been able to pull it all together without the contributions of many friends, including Swim Cafe workers Dianna Ryan and Ellyn Diko, who’ve pitched in to lend a hand each week in the back room; DJ Mary Nisi, whose set of soup music set the perfect mood; Soup & Bread partner and design guru Sheila Sachs, the hostess with the mostest; newly appointed S&B laundress Alison True; the generous Rida Shadin and Michelle Calderhead at La Farine Bakery, purveyors of the official Soup & Bread ciabatta; and pastry chef Rae Hill (shown above with official S&B cab driver Dmitry Samarov), who facilitated the donation of 15 pies by Paula Haney and the good bakers of Hoosier Mama Pie Company.

We’ll have recipes coming soon — and the lowdown on who, and what, we’ve got on tap for next week. In the meantime, stay warm. And of course, eat soup.

Thanks, everyone.

Gills’ Bountiful Vegetable Soup

May 9, 2010

From Sheila Sachs

[Ed: Bountiful for sure, and bursting with basil – this fab vegetable soup was prepared by Sheila in honor of our Kickstarter donors Jim and Sue Gill, whose generous contribution helped fund the initial publication of our cookbook. Thanks Gills!]


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
2 medium carrots, sliced to make discs
1 medium rib celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 cups stock, vegetable or chicken
4 medium new potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes or 2  large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped coarse
1/4 teaspoon summer savory (or 1/8 teaspoon marjoram and 1/8 teaspoon thyme)
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 medium yellow squash, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 ears corn, kernels cut from cob (or 1 1/2 cups frozen)
1/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
1/2 cup elbow macaroni
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
ground black pepper
1/2 cup basil pesto


Heat oil in a large soup kettle. Add onions, carrots, and celery. Sauté until vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add broth, bring to a simmer, and simmer 1 to 2 minutes.

With the soup base at a simmer, add potatoes, tomatoes, summer savory; salt to taste and simmer for 30 minutes. Add squashes, corn, and beans and simmer 5 minutes. Add macaroni and simmer until pasta is done, about 10 minutes. Stir in parsley and basil. Season with additional salt, if necessary, and pepper to taste. Serve with basil pesto dollop.

Shrimp and Roasted Red Pepper Cream Soup in Action

March 20, 2010

Herewith, step-by-step instructions from Sheila:

A few days in advance I made a fish stock. I bought some fish bones from The Fish Guy (brought them home on the bus) and put them in a big pot. (Actually my friend Johnny help rinse the fish carcasses.)

My house still reeks of fish! I put the final stock in the freezer since I wouldn’t be using it for a few days.

Tuesday afternoon–start the soup. First order of business: Clear off the only counter space I have.

Start defrosting the stock.

Defrost the shrimp.

Clean and cook the shrimp, then refrigerate till you’re ready to use.

Roast the peppers ….

…. and bag ’em.

Chop. Chop. Chop. Chop. Chop.

Saute your vegetables, then add your peppers and your stock.

Now it’s time to make the roux, then whisk the two together.

Simmer, then add the beautiful chopped shrimp.

And you’re ready to feed the masses.

It’s delish!

Shrimp and Roasted Red Pepper Cream Soup

March 20, 2010

From Sheila Sachs

Serves 12

[Ed: This recipe, from Corrine M. Sachs, is a Sachs family favorite. See following post for Sheila’s process photos and exciting step by step instructions!]



6 cups fish stock (*see below)
2 pounds shrimp, cooked and diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup onion, diced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
2 sprigs of thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 red bell peppers, roasted and diced
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
2 cups sour cream (light)
1 cup heavy cream
salt & pepper to taste


Prepare fish stock. Roast the red peppers over an open flame until blackened on all sides. Place in a paper bag for several minutes to blister.

Saute the onions, celery and garlic in olive oil until soft. Peel the skin off the cooled red peppers, and dice. Add them to the other vegetables, and continue cooking on medium heat. Add the fish stock. Stir in parsley. Set aside on low heat.

Melt the butter in deep pan and add the flour a little at a time. Stir constantly over a medium heat until the mixture bubbles and thickens. Add the stock mixture slowly to the roux and stir continuously. When all the stock and vegetables have been mixed into the roux, whisk in the cream and sour cream.

Tie thyme sprigs together with string and immerse in soup, keeping the other end tied to the pot handle to be later removed. Add cooked shrimp and simmer to blend flavors. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove thyme before serving.

*Fish Stock

2 pounds bones from white-fleshed, non-oily fish, rinsed under cold water
1/2 cup white wine
3 tablespoons shallots, chopped
1 carrot, sliced
1 stalk celery , sliced
3 springs parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 peppercorns
6 cups water

In a medium stockpot, combine all ingredients. Bring to a gentle boil, skimming any foam that forms on surface. Reduce heat and simmer 30-45 minutes. Strain and refrigerate (or freeze) till ready to use. Or, cheat and mix together the following:

Quick Fish Stock

2 cups water
2-1/2 cups shrimp broth
1-1/2 cups salmon broth
3 fish bouillon cubes

Week 11

March 19, 2010

I’ve been trying really hard not to read anything into the fact that Paul Kahan made soup for us on the same day that Alex Chilton died. Because despite that sad, freaky coincidence, it was a night of Big Stars.

Erm, did I mention that PAUL KAHAN MADE SOUP THIS WEEK?

I was a little worried that between Kahan, the gorgeous weather, and the annual holiday of the green plastic hats, we would be mobbed. So I got to the bar superearly to make sure everything was set up with time to spare. (Big ups to surprise assistant Derek Erdman, who apparently didn’t have anything to do at 4 PM besides haul folding chairs around the Hideout. Thanks Derek!)

And then — whether thanks to foresight, or the fact that it was quite possibly just almost too warm for soup, or who knows what — chaos did not ensue. Sure, it was busy, but manageable-busy. Pleasant, bustlin’, soup-lovin’ busy — and just a great night all around.

That’s Kahan, above, “sexing up” a bowl of his silky yellow split pea and truffle (!) soup with croutons and fresh pea shoots.

And here’s our entire magic soup crew.

On the far left is Susannah Kite Strang, following up last week’s fresh pea soup with a pot of yummy vegetarian minestrone that featured a very generous stuff-to-broth ratio.

Next to her is Immediate Sound Series curator Mitch Cocanig. “Oh, great,” Mitch moaned, after he peered into PK’s soup pot. “You made split pea soup too!?!” But they were both delicious, and totally different — Mitch’s green and rustic, and full of smoky ham goodness thanks to a hock that he “boiled the shit out of” for six hours.

On the other side of Kahan is our very own Sheila Sachs, who spent *days* slaving over a pot of her mother’s shrimp and red pepper cream soup. This was a project that entailed taking the Montrose bus over to the Fish Guy, where she bought ten pounds of fish bones, and then hauling those bones back home and stinking up her house with the stock. The soup itself is made with 8 pounds of shrimp procured from our neighbors at Plitt Seafood, via our other neighbor Dan Blue. Thanks, Dan!

Next to Sheila is Trea Fotidzis, with the much-anticipated Polish dill pickle soup, a Soup and Bread first! Mitch helped with this one, shredding 52 pickles by hand the night before. It was *great.* Very old country and not weird at all. Refreshing, like cucumber soup, but, you know, pickled.

And on the end is Kent Kessler, with a fragrant pot of pork and hominy chili. Hominy, like butternut squash and tortilla soup, is a recurring theme this year. This was *massive* — spicy and rich, and topped with a piquant salsa of onions, jalapeno, and cilantro and a crumble of salty cotija cheese.

Bridging the gap between soup and bread, and St. Patrick’s Day, was another stellar bread pudding, courtesy of Celeste and Devon. Rich and savory,  this one was packed with brussels sprouts and corned beef!

We also had another bagful of baguettes from La Farine, and platters of challah from Chef Kraus’s pastry students at Illinois Institute of Art. Some of their challahs were shaped into traditional braids; others were fancifully blobby. And a few were just downright adorable:

But this little guy proved too tempting for someone, giving rise to the night’s great mystery: Who stole his snout?

Staff members from Inspiration Corporation,  beneficiaries of this week’s donations, turned up with literature and, hurray!, plates of cookies. Inspiration’s probably best known as the organization behind Inspiration Cafe, in Uptown, and the Living Room Cafe, in Woodlawn — both of which provide restaurant quality meals and supportive services, including food-service job training at the associated Cafe Too, to homeless Chicagoans. Thanks to you Soup and Bread raised a tidy $359 toward their efforts. Thanks, everybody!

Next week a team from LTH Forum takes over Soup and Bread. I don’t know exactly what’s on the menu, but I think I heard something about a reprise of last year’s mulefoot pozole, and LTH founder  Gary Wiviott has already sent me his recipe for his mother’s kneifla, or beef soup with drop dumplings. With that much culinary know-how in the house, you know it’s gonna be good.

And, lastly, a reminder: We were slated to wrap this up March 31, but due to overwhelming demand among would-be cooks, we’ve extended Soup and Bread until April 14. Still, that’s just FOUR WEEKS away. Don’t miss out on all the exciting spring soup action!

See you next Wednesday. Recipes coming soon.

Soup cooks 3/17/10

March 12, 2010

This week, Soup and Bread gets jazzy. And, famous.

On board are ….

Immediate Sound Series curator Mitch Cocanig

Bassist Kent Kessler

Trea Fotidzis, who’s a friend of Mitch’s and is making *pickle soup*


Soup and Bread’s very own Sheila Sachs

A return visit from Susannah Kite Strang

and, gulp, Paul Kahan

Donations benefit Inspiration Corporation — who may be bringing along some soup too. Not sure.

New year, new soups

January 8, 2010

I was worried. I confess. Will it snow? Will a gas main break? Will people get sick of soup and move on to something else? Waffles, perhaps?

I should just chill. Soup and Bread, season two, kicked off Wednesday evening with gusto, with more cooks on board, and a really nice turnout of both old friends and new faces. Above, Rae Hill digs into a bowl of simple fish soup, which I made from a recipe provided by Kickstarter donor (and my uncle) Roger Simon, whose donation to our cookbook project ensures him a place in the annals of 2010 soup history.

Rae herself, who’s both a second-year culinary student and the resident baker at Bite Cafe, produced a pot of blazing orange sweet potato soup, which tasted amazing … like a sweet potato pie run through a blender with cream and chicken stock. She also brought several warm loaves of  sweetly mild milk bread, which were a particular hit with the more junior attendees. (She made it last  year as well; the recipe’s on page 116 of the book.) And, if that wasn’t enough, she produced a loaf (or two?) of vegan bread … the ingredients for which I promptly forgot even as I was telling myself, “You should really write this down.” She’s developing new vegan bread recipes for work, and plans to test-drive them with us over the next few months, so be sure and let her know what you think. Next week, she may even have comment cards.

Here’s a wide view of what we had on offer. Over on the far end is Rae’s sweet potato concoction; next to it is “La Zahra’s Moroccan Harira Hemda,” which Shana Pearlmutter cooked up in collaboration with her mother-in-law, who recently moved here from Morocco to help care for the newest member of their family, baby Brahim. Here’s a photo. Aren’t they cute?

Next to Shana and La Zahra’s soup is a piquant vegan sweet-and-sour meatball soup from Swim Cafe. Yes, vegan meatballs. Haven’t you ever heard of seitan? And to the right of that is Zach Kaplan‘s winter minestrone, a tasty offering built on a base of pancetta stock and chock full of hearty beans and pasta. Last but so totally not least is Celeste Dolan‘s Thai eggplant and chicken soup, which was allegedly delicious but gone before I got my bowl out. Lucky for me (and you), Celeste wins the promptness prize and I should be posting the recipe shortly the recipe is posted here. She and her partner Devon also turned up with bread whipped up not by the professional baker, but by baking novice Devon — including a caramelized onion bread for which I am rabidly tracking down the recipe, the recipe for which can be found here.  It’s made by kneading onion marmalade (!) into the dough just before baking.

These two also brought cupcakes, modeled below by Sheila and young Henry Hinschliff.

Most importantly, we raised $252 in donations for the food pantry at St. John Berchman’s in Logan Square. Just as a reminder, this year we are aiming to give Soup and Bread monies directly to neighborhood food pantries and soup kitchens; if you know of a worthy organization, please drop me a line and I’ll get them on the list.

Recipes and next week’s schedule coming soon. In the meantime, a few random remaining photos:

Vera snags a cupcake.

Blurry Celeste models her limited-edition S&B apron.

Beckett performs clam puppet theater.

The littlest soup fans ever pose for the camera.

And I try, in vain, not to freak out.

See you next week!

Allll … most …. there …

October 19, 2009


The Soup and Bread Cookbook Kickstarter page has 50 backers, and pledges of just over $2,300! Only $700 to go and we’ll meet our goal.

This weekend I posted a mockup of the cover Sheila is working on. It is so cute it makes me weak in the knees.