What do Vegan Minestrone Soup and Geology have in common?
Here’s the long answer.
As new empty nesters, Pete and I were able to take our first kid-free, week-long vacation in I’m not sure how long.
A long time.
We headed to Sedona Arizona, a nice little six-hour plane ride plus two-hour car ride from Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, and well worth the time. This was our second trip to Sedona, having taken our two kids there about ten years ago when they were nine and eleven years old at the suggestion of my sister-in-law, Janet. It’s a fun destination for kids of that age, and it’s a fun destination for couples too. We saw it the first time and vowed to return.
Sedona is located in the north central area of Arizona, south of the Colorado Plateau into which the Grand Canyon is carved. Sedona is, of course, known as “Red Rock Country.”
I mean, you know, because it’s where you see the red rocks.
OK, I can do better than that.
Sedona’s red rock history began about 320 million years ago when the southwest was closer to an inland sea and nearer to the equator. What is now red rock was originally soft mud and sand. During that time the area was a low, arid coastal plain next to a shallow sea evidenced by sea-creature fossils in many of the rock layers. Over the years, rivers, wind, and ocean currents (and waves) deposited sediment. When the sea level rose, layers of mud accumulated on the sea floor topping river deposits. When the sea level fell, wind-blown sand and dunes covered the area.
After time, sediment changed to hard rock. The rocks’ red color is caused by a thin coating of iron oxide on the rock particles. The iron oxide was formed by chemical weathering of iron-bearing minerals in the rocks in the arid setting. At one time about 1,900 feet of red rock covered the entire Sedona area. Local Oak Creek and its tributaries have eroded large amounts of the rock, creating canyons, mesas, plateaus and other formations. The broken rock was transported to the ocean by way of Oak Creek and the Verde, Salt, and Colorado Rivers. If it weren’t for erosion, there would be no Red Rock Country for us to enjoy in the United States.
(Much of the above information is from an article by Larry D. Fellows published in Arizona Geology.)
Most interestingly to me, erosion formed several natural bridges in the area, all of which can be reached by trail. We hiked one of the most famous trails to The Devil’s Bridge, a very popular tourist destination. It involves an easy hike followed by climbing, although nothing too difficult. It’s thrilling but manageable.
One can always find a friend and fellow hiker up-top to take a picture as you round the final bend and walk out onto the bridge:
The Devil’s Bridge allows an excellent view of Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon.
Our agenda each day was morning hike followed by poolside reading followed by cocktails and dinner. It’s a solid plan for anyone visiting Sedona, although there are jeep tours and mystical meditation-type activities such as yoga, vortex visiting and crystal healing. I’ll have to outline those some other time. We limited ourselves to hiking and swimming.
We stayed at the beautiful Enchantment Resort and Mii Amo Spa nestled into Boynton Canyon, Sedona Arizona. See how it’s incorporated into the canyon?
Note: This is NOT the same resort from my prior post on the Noisy Minibar. That was a temporary stop in Scottsdale before we headed into the mountains of Sedona.
But how is geology and a trip to Sedona related to Vegan Minestrone Soup?
It all begins with simonjohnsonofclowne, a blog written by Simon Johnson, a retired English and Geology teacher, who is mostly known for biking through Scottish and English towns, reporting on his adventures including photography. Right now he’s at the end of a series called “A-Z of English Towns,” and he is in the Vale of Pickering, home of Ampleforth College “considered to be the original of Hogwarts.”
Once a week–Sundays, I think–he almost always does a post called “Mostly Concerning Food” where he talks about the food he ate (and shared with family) over the week. This must be how we originally connected–through food posts–although it’s always difficult to trace the original connection between bloggers.
My most favorite of his posts are those about Scottish geology and early geologists. These posts should NOT be lost to speeding-by timelines and busy schedules! They are fascinating!
Mr. Johnson said, “Scotland has some of the most remarkable geology on the planet which may explain why it was in Scotland that the world gained a new science in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: the science of geology. Understanding the planet was all very easy before these people started looking more closely at the fabulous rock formations of the Highlands. Before this group of brilliant Caledonian thinkers came along, there was only really one geological textbook. It has become, in our own century the most blindly adhered to, and the most scathingly derided book of historical physics of all time. It was, The Bible.”
He then expands on information about these historic “thinkers” and the reactions and consequences they faced as they uncovered and reported their discoveries. Over a series of five posts, he discusses more of:
- geologists bumping heads with theologists. (How old IS the Earth?)
- women geologists of the time. (Yes there were!)
- theories explaining why the fossil record of north west Scotland should more resemble North America than England.
- the idea of continental drift based on Scottish discoveries of near identical fossils thousands of miles apart. (“Either the creatures had traveled thousands of miles or the continents did.”)
Here are the posts. I highly recommend them.
Still, though, what about the minestrone??
Well, it was just before our trip, I was reading one of Mr. Johnson’s “Mostly Concerning Food” posts and commenting about, for one reason or another: Minestrone Soup. I told him I’d work on a vegan version. I’m not sure I remember WHY! In any case, I left for my trip thinking about Vegan Minestrone Soup, and I enjoyed my time in Sedona only wishing we had along a scholar who could tell us about the rocks! Of course, Mr. Johnson came to mind.
And true to my word, I came home and worked on a recipe for the soup. The first time I tried it using vegetable stock as a base. But the second time I tried it, I used bean broth! And let me tell you, bean broth is the trick!! This is a delicious and hearty dinner for the cool weather we faced upon our return from the desert to Pennsylvania.
Vegan Minestrone Soup with Bean Broth Base
Four tablespoons water for sautéing, adding more to the pan as needed
One large onion, diced
Four cloves garlic, minced
Two stalks celery, diced
One large carrot, diced
One-third pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
One teaspoon dried oregano
One teaspoon dried basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
One 28 -ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
One 14 -ounce can crushed tomatoes (or used preserved tomatoes from your garden described in this post, three or four small tomatoes)
Six cups garbanzo bean broth (recipe here)
One 15 -ounce can low-sodium kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Eight ounces whole wheat spaghetti (or other pasta such as elbow macaroni)
Pour the sautéing water into the pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about four minutes. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add the celery and carrot and cook until they begin to soften, about five minutes. Stir in the green beans, dried oregano and basil, three-quarter teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste; cook three more minutes.
Add all the tomatoes and the bean broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in the kidney beans and pasta and cook until the pasta and vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Season with salt.
It’s a rock-solid recipe!