One area that I’m trying to explore a bit more on this blog is the world of gluten free food. I don’t avoid gluten myself, obviously, as I’ve got numerous recipes for and involving seitan on this blog, but I understand that many of my readers do, as this blog tends to cater to those with some level of dietary restriction, which I’m no stranger to. While I have no problem with gluten, I made a choice long ago to stop eating all forms of meat and I’ve had to cut out or at least seriously cut back on things like dairy and refined sugar, which I don’t tolerate as well as I did in my younger days.
I have a friend who prides himself on his uncanny ability to digest “anything and everything.” We recently got into a discussion about dietary restriction. He informed me that he believes this talent stems from the fact that he regularly eats “anything and everything,” regularly pushing his system to adapt so it can always handle said “anything and everything.” Then he got into a story about how he had an acquaintance visiting recently, to whom he served a bowl of chicken and stars soup. Apparently the soup didn’t agree with the acquaintance’s digestive system, much to my friend’s dismay and disbelief.
My take on all of this? Maybe my friend is right most of us would be able to eat anything put before us if we regularly pushed our digestive systems to handle these things. But honestly, that’s not an ability I really want. I certainly don’t want and will never need to digest meat again in my life, and if dairy doesn’t work out so well for me either, maybe I don’t really need dairy in my life.
The whole point of that story was to introduce the concepts of dietary restriction and chicken and stars soup. See, when I ate this soup, that comforting feeling of eating chicken soup as a kid is what came to mind, but fortunately, this recipe doesn’t involve the unwanted element of chicken. Nor, for that matter does it involve the unwanted element (for many) of pasta, which entails gluten, refined carbohydrates and lots of other potential dietary irritants. Shiitakes stand in as a healthy-hearty substitute for chicken, quinoa makes for a nutrient packed substitute for pasta, leeks and coriander pack some extra flavor and just a bit of non-dairy milk adds richness, making this light and healthy soup feel like it just tips the decadent side of the scale.
Make enough of this to ensure that you’ll have leftovers. The quinoa continues to soak up the broth overnight, so you will have an even thicker and creamier bowl of soup on day two.
- ½ cup quinoa
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 3 leeks (white parts and just the lower portion of the green parts), finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 6 cups vegetable broth
- 2 cups sliced shiitake caps
- 1 carrot, sliced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp. coriander
- juice of ½ lemon
- 1 cup unsweetened, unflavored milk of choice
- 2 tbsp. cornstarch (gluten free if that's how you roll), whisked together with ¼ cup cold water
- 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
- Rinse quinoa well under cold running water. Set aside.
- Heat oil in large saucepan or stock pot.
- Add leeks and garlic and sautee for about five minutes.
- Add broth, quinoa, shiitakes, carrot, bay leaf and coriander.
- Bring to boil, then lower heat to simmer.
- Allow to continue simmering for fifteen minutes, or until carrots are tender.
- Add lemon juice, milk and cornstarch mixture.
- Continue cooking, stirring, until soup just comes back to a simmer. Ladle into bowls and top with parsley.