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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Traditional Cooking Class Challenges and Amazing Minestrone Soup!

In my nutrition program, I am fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to have a World Cuisine Cooking class taught by a local chef. Each week we "visit" a different part of the world by cooking the most popular cuisine from the area. Now for a gluten free vegan, this is a personal challenge, I do not get to eat the 5-7 course meals we prepare, except on the rare occasion I prepare one of the dishes myself in strict gluten free manner; which in itself is troublesome, the cutting boards are all "contaminated", the only safe utensils  are metal, non-stick pans, wooden spoons, and plastic spatulas are forbidden, as are the food processors with their plastic bowls. One week I had a small (1/4 cup?) amount of hummus for dinner, while everyone around me feasted on a meal that could easily have been made vegan and gluten free, but of course the others might not care to eat that, and to make a complete double set of every recipe is, well, ridiculous, not to mention out of the department budget!
On the other hand, I am learning a great deal about cooking techniques, and how omnivores perceive their food, and how they perceive vegans. My goal is to become a gentle educator to the class and the chef about gluten free and vegan lifestyle. Up to this point  they see me eating virtually nothing (outside food is forbidden by kitchen rules) and they imagine I eat grass, no doubt, it appears I "can't eat anything" when the reality is, I can eat everything, with a few modifications!  It is an opportunity to share little by little my reasons for becoming vegan and gluten free, and it may plant a seed of understanding and acceptance. Who knows, someday a person in this class may come to their own conclusions that a plant based diet is optimum, or that they might should try going gluten free to see if their health issue(s) improves.
Last night in class it was a gluten-fest. It is a small miracle I didn't get sick by proximity to more gluten than I think I have ever seen! I ate nothing, washed my hands often, but I did drink tea prepared in the same kitchen as all that gluten flying around, so no doubt got some gluten, but not enough to have symptoms. Never the less, I am undertaking a detox juice regimen for today, as I do after every class.That class I ate hummus that I prepared myself  I was sick for a week, possibly picked up from a (metal) spoon carelessly laid on the counter top and then used to stir or something. I wish I had a gluten free bubble that I could cook in, LOL! Back to last night. It was cuisine of Italy: Beef Lasagna with fresh made pasta, Ravioli with fresh made pasta, Bruschetta, Minestrone, and for dessert, Tiramisu. It is my plan to create vegan, gluten free versions of all the recipes from the chef, when I have time. Time, that is the tricky part with all of my classes to study for, and trying to maintain my 4.0 GPA, so I rarely have free time, it seems like I study every waking minute. However, last night I was the cook for the Minestrone  and have the vegan, gluten free version for you! It is a simple but oh, so delicious soup that would go with any meal. I only wish I could have tasted what I made for the class last night had it not had chicken broth and gluten, but today for lunch  I thoroughly enjoyed the healthy version!

adapted from recipe by Chef Ana Martinez

  • 1 pound gluten free pasta
  • 1 can white beans or kidney beans, rinsed
  • 6 tomatoes
  • 3 zucchini, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 1 head of garlic (12-15 cloves)
  • 7 oz. jar* tomato paste
  • 2 sprigs of basil
  • 4 Qt Vegetable broth
  • 3 Tbsp marsala wine - SECRET INGREDIENT!
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • vegan Parmesan for garnish

  1. Bring large pot of water to boil for blanching tomatoes. 
  2. Chop the vegetables, set aside in separate bowls. 
  3. Chop onions and garlic finely and set aside in same bowl as the carrots.
  4. Finely chop one sprig of basil, reserving the prettiest one for garnish!
  5. Place tomatoes in a colander or sieve and immerse in the boiling water for 1 minute, remove and let cool. Peel the skins, and quarter the tomatoes.
  6. Reusing the large pot, over medium heat, place the wine, onion, garlic, and carrots and cook for 2 minutes.
  7. Add zucchini, beans, and tomatoes.
  8. Add the vegetable stock and tomato paste and cook until the carrots are almost done, approx 20 minutes.
  9. Add the pasta and cook for 8 minutes.
  10. Add salt and pepper - to taste
  11. Before serving, add sprig of basil garnish, and top with chopped basil and Parmesan.
*due to he fact that canned goods leach the carcinogen BPA into foods, and the acidity of tomatoes increases this leaching effect dramatically, you only want to use jarred tomatoes, tomato paste, ketchup, etc. never canned.

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~ Shelley