Glutamate is an amino acid found in all foods containing protein such as cheese, milk, mushrooms, meat, fish, and many vegetables. Glutamate is also produced by the human body and is vital for metabolism and brain function.
Glutamate's unpopular cousin, monosodium glutamate is also known as MSG. This is the sodium salt of glutamate. When MSG is added to foods, it provides a similar flavoring as the glutamate that occurs naturally in food. MSG is comprised of nothing more than water, sodium and glutamate.
Lentil Minestrone (Serves 6)
from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Deborah Madison
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra virgin to finish
2 cups onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped parsley
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 carrots, diced
1 cup diced celery or celery root
1 cup French green lentils, rinsed
Aromatics: 2 bay leaves, 8 parsley branches, 6 thyme sprigs
9 cups water or vegetable stock (I prefer Pacific Organic brand)
Mushroom soy sauce to taste (or regular soy sauce if that's what you have on hand)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch greens—mustard, broccoli rabe, chard, or spinach
2 cups cooked small pasta—shells, orecchiette, or other favorite shape
Thin shavings of Parmesan
Heat the oil in a wide soup pot with the onion. Saute over high heat, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
Add the tomato paste, parsley, celery, garlic, vegetables, and 2 teaspoons salt and cook 3 minutes more.
Add the lentils, aromatics, and water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Taste for salt and season with pepper. If it needs more depth, add mushroom soy sauce to taste, starting with 1 tablespoon. (The soup may seem bland at this point, but the flavors will come together when the soup is finished.) Remove the aromatics.
Boil the greens in salted water until they're tender and bright green, then chop them coarsely.
Just before serving, add the greens and the pasta to the soup and heat through. Serve with extra virgin olive oil drizzled into each bowl, a generous grind of pepper, and the Parmesan.
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