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Low Mileage Kitchen: Odds and ends make soothing soup

A soup rice peanut butter? You bet! They team up with vegetables result is rich soothing bowl that’ll battle chill

A soup of rice and peanut butter? You bet! They team up with vegetables and the result is a rich and soothing bowl that’ll battle the chill of winter. | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times photos

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From the farmstand

The year-round Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand, 66 E. Randolph, offers Midwest-grown foods and other locally produced edibles, including those used in this recipe. Reach the Farmstand at (312) 742 8419 or go to chica

Cooking classes are offered through the World Kitchen program (; registration for the winter session begins Jan. 11. Register online, phone (312) 742 TIXS, or visit the box office at 78 E. Washington.

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Updated: February 5, 2012 8:02AM

After a week of cooking classes, testing recipes and doing store demos, the refrigerator holds a strange collection of bits and pieces.

That means it’s time to make soup.

For years neighbors and friends knew that Sunday afternoon would find me in the kitchen with those scraps, turning them into something I fondly called “Sunday Stewp” as one never knew it if would be soup or stew, but a one-pot meal was sure to be found on our table at the end of the day, with plenty for sharing. No two weeks ever offered the same result, producing a weekly cooking and eating adventure.

Last weekend, after all of the holiday indulgences, I thought of those Sunday dinners and wondered what warm and tasty concoction I could come up with. But this time I actually used a cookbook.

The book I chose was Soup and Bread Cookbook — Building Community One Pot At a Time by Chicagoan Martha Bayne and published by Evanston’s Surrey Books. Bayne, a former food editor, was working at the Hideout, a cozy music club known for its bands and neighborhood vibe. Bored one winter, she dreamed up Soup Night, with patrons and friends sharing soup and, as it turned out, so much more.

As Bayne says in the introduction of the book “(Soup) soothes the sick, it nourishes the poor … perhaps more than any other food, soup can also be a powerful tool: drawing people together and helping them reach out to others.”

After the Soup Night idea took off and became a fixture at the club, Bayne went one step further and collected the recipes. The book was designed to share with readers a sense of the people making them, tell their stories, and expand the community well beyond the “Depression-era tavern on a dusty industrial street.” And in another example of sharing, proceeds from the sale of the book are shared with the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

The soup I chose is one that has classic African overtones, but made by a cook with the decidedly Irish name of O’Toole — a perfect example of Chicago’s melting pot neighborhoods.

It requires simple ingredients that most of us have in our kitchens and less than an hour to complete. Rice and peanut butter pair up with veggies and vegetable stock for a nutritious bowl of winter goodness. Be sure to cut all of the vegetables into small cubes so that they cook up tender in the time allotted; they will still have their individual personalities and give the soup an appealing texture.

With book in hand, I was further inspired to whip up some Buttermilk-Corn Muffins while the soup cooked. And immediately decided both should star in a couple of weeks in a cooking class taught by Bayne at World Kitchen, where we will expand our own community, one pot at a time.

Judith Dunbar Hines is the director of culinary arts and events for the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture, which operates Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand.

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