I have enjoyed creating recipes and cooking for a number of different folks with varied eating styles and cultures as well as food-related sensitivities or intolerances and allergies. Often, it’s an intriguing challenge to adapt a dish to suit several types of diets, almost like a matrix.
To start, the question I always ask my guests is “What are your food allergies or intolerances?”
Food allergies are most important, as an allergic reaction to food can cause death. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s list of Big Eight food allergens include: soy, wheat, dairy, eggs, shellfish (lobster, clams), fish, peanuts and tree nuts.
Food intolerances can be different eating styles, like vegetarian, vegan, eat fish or chicken but no red meat, local food only, these types of things. Or they can be non-life-threatening reactions to certain foods. For example, I love cucumbers and peppers, but they cause wicked indigestion.
This was my thought process as I was creating a soup for a group of friends with no time to cook. One has a nut allergy, another is a vegan, and a third maintains a strict, gluten-free diet.
Because a vegan enjoys only a plant-based diet, my food preparations could have no dairy products, cheese or butter, meat or fish or fowl, and no honey.
Peanut and nut allergies are easier to eliminate, but because we do enjoy nuts in our home, I need to be careful that my tools, knives, cutting boards have not been contaminated with nut oil.
A gluten-free diet is one that contains no gluten; the protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Many folks who follow a gluten-free diet have been diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder known as celiac disease. Consumption of wheat triggers an immune system response to attack the protein, which damages the small intestine, and causes serious harm, potentially death.
Reducing or eliminating gluten from the diet also has been shown to reduce body inflammation. This eating style can be an alternative diet for people to increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables and reduce bloating.
The recipe for Leek and Corn Chowder is my new favorite. Coconut milk is a delicious alternative to the dairy found in a traditional chowder, and olive oil is an excellent fat in which to sauté leeks and garlic instead of butter.
Instead of creamed canned corn (which often contains gluten and other starches and gums), this preparation purees a portion of the soup either with an immersion blender or in the food processor, resulting a creamy texture, and hearty flavor. Simple to prepare, and easy to store for another meal, Leek and Corn Chowder is vegan and gluten-free and now my new favorite dish to cook for friends.
Cheryl Wixson lives and cooks in Stonington. She welcomes food-related questions and queries at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leek and Corn Chowder
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 large leeks, sliced into rings (about 2 cups)
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
3 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
3 cups diced potatoes
3 cups stock or water
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 14-oz. can coconut milk (not light)
½ tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. Aleppo pepper flakes
Sea salt and fresh pepper to taste
Assemble ingredients and tools. Add some olive oil to the bottom of a heavy-bottomed soup pot.
Chop the leeks and set aside. Roughly chop the garlic and set aside. Peel and cube the potatoes and set aside.
Place the pot over medium-high heat and heat the oil. Add the leeks and sauté, stirring, until they just start to soften. Reduce the heat, cover the pot and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant.
Add the stock, bay leaf, thyme, corn and cubed potatoes to the pot. Stir, increase the heat to simmer, cover and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 8-10 minutes.
Remove about 4 cups of the soup from the pot and set aside. Add the can of coconut milk to the soup in the pot and puree the mixture in a blender or with an immersion blender. Add the removed soup back to the pot and stir in the turmeric and pepper flakes. Season to taste with sea salt and fresh pepper.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 291 calories, 6 grams protein, 39 grams carbohydrates, 14 grams fat, 433 mg. sodium, 4.5 grams fiber.