Minestrone a tasty step on food pyramid


April 05, 1994|By Colleen Pierre, R.D. | Colleen Pierre, R.D.,Special to The Sun

I have to start with a correction and an apology. Last week's recipe for "Nearly Instant Minestrone" contained an ingredient called Ranchero Bean Salad. Some of you went looking for it, to no avail. That's my fault. The correct name is Rancho Fiesta Salad. It contains about 4 cups of vegetables including garbanzo beans, small white beans and kidney beans, along with wide Italian green beans, broccoli florets and a little bit of sweet red pepper.

As you can see, it's the perfect shortcut for a hearty Italian soup. I do apologize to everyone who searched in vain, and to all the grocery stores who handled the inquiries. Also, congratulations on your creative solutions for replacing the missing ingredient. If you'd like to type them up and send them to me, I'll share them with our readers.

You've probably noticed this is not exactly a cooking column. I use recipes and menu suggestions to make a point about some nutritional issue. Included is the hope that these ideas will help you improve other recipes, meal plans and menu selections. That minestrone was especially valuable, first because it tastes great, so once you've made it, you'll enjoy it. My No. 1 rule about food is that it should taste good. We spend a big chunk of our lives eating. It should be a joy.

The recipe also contains several fat-lowering cooking tricks that carry over nicely into other recipes:

* Skip the saute fat. Many old-time favorite recipes would stand ++ up to modern low-fat scrutiny except that they start off by sauteing vegetables in lots of unnecessary butter or oil.

Just use a non-stick pan, a little cooking spray and medium heat so the vegetables don't burn. Put a lid on the pan, and just let the vegetables "sweat" out their own liquid.

* Replace high-fat meat with low-fat meat as a flavoring agent. What your recipe needs is the taste of meat (not fat) and the spices (such as anise or garlic from sausage).

* Replace meat with beans for protein.

* Focus your diet on fruits, vegetables and grains. Minestrone is mostly vegetables and pasta. Along with a slice of bread and a piece of fruit for dessert, it's the perfect example of how eating from the bottom of the Food Guide Pyramid (2-4 fruits, 3-5 vegetables and 6-11 grains per day) can be simple, delicious, inexpensive, filling and good for you. What could be better?

xTC Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center and Vanderhorst & Associates in Baltimore.

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