Homemade Minestrone Soup (Gluten-free)

I love real food. I love taking pictures of real food. I love showing people what real food looks like. It is surprising to me how much processed, chemical-laden foods we eat. When I do nutrition classes with teens, it breaks my heart they don't recognize many of the vegetables I am showing them. We've become so accustomed to packaged foods, dyes and additives, I think we've forgotten what real food looks like. I'm not immune from this acculturation to the food creating industry. I spent years on a first name basis with my Taco Bell drive-thru server. It's been a slow journey, but now I am at a place in my life where I see fresh, all natural foods, and I get excited. The taste of real food is so pleasureful to savor. Without all the sugar, chemicals and massive amounts of salt plaguing my taste buds and my body, I get the joy of really enjoying my food. The reason I'm telling you all this is because this soup recipe epitomizes for me what it is like to eat whole, natural, real food. This soup is so lovely and all the love and care that goes into making it really stands out in the flavor. Don't get me wrong; it isn't a difficult or time consuming dish, but there is some chopping. But, you will be really glad you took the opportunity to use some of your hidden knife skills.

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (Try to use a good quality oil. U.C. Davis Olive Center preforms quality testing on all major brands.  Read more here.)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow or white onion, diced small
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 yellow, orange or red bell pepper, seeded and diced (It helps with flavor if you remove all the white membrane from the inside, as it tends to be bitter.)
  • 3 large, very ripe tomatoes or 1  15-ounce can of diced tomatoes (If you can find it, Muir Glen Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes has the most amazing flavor...even better than fresh, if that's possible!)
  • 1  15-ounce can of chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed, or 1 1/3 cup fresh cooked garbanzo beans (This is one of those ingredients that isn't necessarily going to taste much better if you make it fresh or used canned, as long as you use a high quality brand that doesn't add a bunch of junk to the ingredients.) 
  • 4 cups or 32 ounce carton vegetable stock/broth (If you are not vegetarian, you can try playing with the flavor and add chicken broth instead.) 
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 6-8 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup Savory or Napa cabbage, washed, dried and shredded

Step One:
Be sure all your vegetables are prepared before you start cooking.  Use a large pot or stockpot with a heavy bottom if you have one.  Add the oil, and heat it over medium heat.  Add the minced garlic and onion once the pot and oil are hot, but not before then! Cook for about 4 minutes or until the onion looks translucent.  You might want to stir it around a bit so it doesn't burn or brown too much.  Add the celery, carrots, bell pepper, tomato, chickpeas and broth.  Bring to a boil.  Once the boil begins, turn down the heat to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. 

Step Two:
Basil Chiffonade. Take your basil leaves and stack them together in a tight pile.  Start at one end and roll up the basil leaves into a tight tube.  Hold the tube as tightly as you can against the cutting board, and slice very thinly through the tube. Toss the chiffonade to seperate.  You just chiffonaded your basil.  How do you feel?  See, I told you that you had hidden knife skills! 

Step Three:

Right before serving, stir the basil and cabbage into the soup and heat just until they are soft (the basil will turn a beautiful bright green).  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy with multi-grain, gluten-free bread, gluten-free crackers (Mary's Gone Crackers are my favorite), or a salad. 

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