First impressions: This is a small, spiral-bound book with a heavy card stock cover. It has sweet illustrations of ingredients throughout.
Number of recipes: About 60
The angle: The book follows the first season of Soup & Bread nights at The Hideout, a small bar and music venue tucked away in an industrial corridor of Chicago. Martha Bayne started the weekly winter events in early 2009 to bring some much-needed socialization to the dark days of winter. She enlisted Hideout staff members, regulars, local musicians, writers, cooks and artists to donate pots of homemade soup and served them up (along with day-old bread) free of charge. Donations were collected each night for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. The event became quite popular and is now in its second season (full disclosure: we'll be serving up our own homemade soup there next month). The book includes many of the recipes from the 2009 season, broken down into six chapters: Beef, Pork and Lamp Soups; Chicken and Fish Soups; Hearty Bean Soups with Meat; Vegetarian Bean and Pea Soups; Other Vegetable Soups; and Breads and Other Baked Goods.
Strengths: As Martha notes in the introduction, the event is designed to be a bit of a free for all and encourages cooks to bring whatever strikes their fancy. Thus, there was an entire month of red lentil soups last year (sounds great to us!), but not a single clam chowder. The book, too, isn't a comprehensive collection of every kind of soup, but instead a unique assemblage of soups that are perfect for a cold Midwest winter. It makes the book feel very personal, and we love that about it. There are also little notes about the night each recipe was made. With the recipe for Free-Range Bread, for example, Martha writes, "Hugh arrived with an armful of simple, crusty loaves leavened with wild yeasts harvested from the air in his apartment on March 4."
Recipes for right now: Kimchi Chigae, Ham Hock and Habanero Soup with Cornmeal-Plantain Dumplings, Champagne and Lamb French Onion Soup, Chicken and Nettle Soup, Hummus Soup, Vegan Groundnut Stew, (Dubiously) Bulgarian Tomato Soup with Couscous Dumplings, Milk Bread Rolls.
Recommended? Yes. We love the story and idea behind the book and its lovely design, but most importantly, it's full of delicious-sounding recipes that are clear and easy to follow.
- Buy the book: Soup & Bread Cookbook, $20 at Soup & Bread, the blog. (A portion of the proceeds will go to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.)
(Image: Soup & Bread)