When I last checked in with Mike Bancroft, he was pushing a line of three excellent hot sauces in order to fund Co-op Image, the youth arts-education center he founded on the west side. Since then the sauce business has been very good to him—and to the arts center. Today Co-op Sauce is an independent business, with a full line of ten sauces (plus short-run seasonal and collaborative ones), as well as vinegars, salsa, barbecue sauces, and pickles, all produced with a bounty of locally grown produce. And Bancroft has moved operations out of the cramped west-side arts center and into a dedicated kitchen in Rogers Park that he shares with baker (and girlfriend) Anne Kostrowski of Crumb Chicago. He still steers half the proceeds to the kids and employs a number of them in sauce production, monthly Stew Supper Club dinners, and operation of the cafe, which runs out of the front of the space four days a week. It has a tightly focused menu, featuring a handful of sandwiches, a salad, coffee, sodas, and a selection of Kostrowki's baked goods, including the "bread board," a choose-your-own sampler of breads and spreads.
Here's a recipe for steamed artichokes with Green Mash-Ine, developed by Mario Maldonado, one of the kids who work with Bancroft.
4 medium artichokes
1/2 cup butter melted
3 T Co-op Green Mash-Ine Hot Sauce
1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1. Trim the stems from the artichokes, and remove the small leaves from the bottoms (the choke).
2. Slice about an inch off the top so that it is flat.
3. Pour 2 cups or an inch of water in a large pot, and insert a steamer, cover and bring to a boil.
4. Allow them to steam for about 15 minutes, or until a fork can easily pierce the stem.
5. In a cup or a small bowl, mix together the melted butter and Co-op Green Mash-ine Hot Sauce.
6. Drizzle the mixture over upright artichokes, being sure to dribble into all crevices. Then sprinkle bread crumbs across the tops and steam.
Sauce and Bread Kitchen, 6338-40 N. Clark, 773-942-6384, sauceandbread.com