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Feb 8, 2009 07:45 AM

soup & bread recipes for soup-kitchen type cafe?

Hi folks, we're starting a volunteer-run soup cafe (free) where we expect to feed 25-30 people each Monday at lunch. We have the great good fortune of having a restaurant owner giving guidance, but I'd still love to hear what you know. I thought I'd read posts from people who've done this but can't find them by using the search feature. We are planning to serve soup and a bread (cornbread, biscuit, etc.) and to send leftovers home in to-go containers. I would love advice of all kinds, but especially:

--recipes that have been particularly popular?

--unexpected things you learned along the way

--touches that take the soup from filling to delightful

Thanks so much for your help!

PS We're doing this out of a local church--we have the church all day on Mondays, but not at all on Sundays. Do you find a need to do a lot of prep/precooking (beans, rice, etc.) the day before?

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  1. Long ago in hippie days I occasionally let groups of young travelers (hippies!) stay overnight --"crash pad" was the term-- and usually served this:
    Big stockpot Campbell's Bean with Bacon soup (maybe 10-12 cans + equal amount water), scrambled eggs (2-3 dozen at a time), whatever bread/rolls were available at 10pm from grocery, and hard candy. Nobody didn't like it, but this was 40 years ago.
    So maybe inexpensive protein is a good place to start-- and thanks for the memory!
    This is an online recipe for "Campbell's" bean with bacon-
    who knows, could be very nice.

    1. What a lovely project! I hope you succeed.

      Try Lahey's no knead bread if you can do it in the quantities you need. It is perfect for soup.

      I assume you want cheap soups, so I suggest the peasant cuisine of various countries:

      caldo verde
      minestrone [named after the fact that it was given out in soup kitchens]
      pinto beans [rick bayless has a good one in mexican food everyday]
      I also suggest using whole grains in the soups to make them stretch more and make them more nourishing.

      etc. What makes these soups good are the the extras: the bread, the cheese, and so one. Of course, this all depends upon what the people like to eat. A little bit of meat fried initially adds to the flavor a lot.

      Finally, the book 'soups of italy' by norma wasserman-miller is like a bible to me for how to make inexpensive, but flavorful soups. She talks about soup in 3 phases: frying the flavors, adding the broth and then adding on extras on top.

      1. Since this meal is presumably these folks' main nutrition for the day, you should use beans, barley, brown rice, and other whole grains as much as possible. You don't need more than 4-6 soups, with the weekly schedule. If the church has real dishes and utensils, that might elevate the meal to something special - they probably see a lot of paper, styrofoam, and plastic. If someone were willing to take responsibility for bringing in real cloth napkins and laundering them weekly, that would also help - you might have to make it clear that these napkins are not "to go". Garnishing the servings of soup would be easy and nice. As I posted elsewhere, after not using foil muffin cups because they are a mess to peel off, I learned that the paper dividers they are packaged with should be left in place. Using these, you can load up a parchment-lined sheet pan with cups and use an ice cream scoop to dollop in the batter, so you can bake dozens at one time, with nothing to clean up. There are recipes for rolls baked in muffin cups that could be used here, and savory muffins like corn and oatmeal.

        1. Take a look at the cookbook - Twelve Months of Monastery Soups. There are lots of hearty, inexpensive options there.

          One thing to be aware of - in our state you cannot send leftovers home after a free meal like that - it violates the law. We used to give the leftovers away after the AIDS luncheon at our church but had to stop. The idea is that we were potentially exposing our guests to food poisoning. It was a terrible shame - we had to toss good food out and we had people there who really needed and wanted it. I'm in New York - I don't know where you are but you might look into that. Good luck with your project - God knows people need the help these days.

          4 Replies
          1. re: lupaglupa

            lupaglupa, thanks for the tips--will definitely check out that cookbook. And will need to check the legalities on leftovers. It's incredible how often these "protecting people" laws end up hurting them more than helping.

            1. re: miss louella

              I try to understand whay the gov't is doing - maybe people would send very marginal food out and the recipients would get sick. But there ought to be a way to deal with it that isn't wasting the food which is right there ready for people who need it.

              1. re: miss louella

                It's really a shame, I agree, but it probably has more to do with the fact that the folks you are giving the soup to don't have refrigeration facilities to store the soup for another meal. I wonder if any leftover soup could be frozen and then added to the batch for the following Monday's soup cafe?

              2. re: lupaglupa

                How odd - we have similar laws here in Florida too. Groups that wanted to create food on their own to serve the homeless got shut down as well.

              3. How wonderful of you, I would love to do something like or be a part of it.

                I have a great recipe for Pasta E fagioli (it's Giada's) and I add kielbasa or sausage to give it more heartiness but the beans and pasta in it are great on their own as well.