Culturally, the United States is more a mixed salad than a melting pot. In most communities, different ethnic groups live side by side more often than they blend. The kitchen seems to be the main exception, where ingredients and even dishes from one culture are constantly being adopted or adapted by another.

Linguini with edamame and Mexistrone soup are two prime examples of melting pot cooking that I have recently enjoyed. They show how combining ingredients from two culinary traditions, and using a "foreign" technique, can produce delicious results.

What could be simpler than whole-wheat pasta tossed with the bright green, sweet soybeans nearly everyone has fallen in love with. I recently enjoyed this dish at a Japanese friend's house. For her, using whole wheat spaghetti in place of buckwheat-based soba noodles was an adventure into another culture. So was sauteing the beans in olive oil, along with garlic and arugula. An Italian-American neighbor taught her to do this in exchange for a lesson on making miso soup.

For Mexistrone, the story is pure Americana. I first saw this meatless soup in a book that is a collection of contest-winning recipes called Red, White and Blue Ribbon 2004. Created by Elaine Sweet of Dallas, Texas, the soup combines Tex-Mex ingredients - corn, pinto beans, and jalapenos - with the usual Italian contingent of tomatoes, zucchini and carrots. But it was loaded with sodium from bouillon cubes and clam juice, cooked for eight hours in a crock-pot and was topped with cornmeal dumplings.

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Spying a healthier winner in this soup, I slashed the sodium by using spicy tomato juice for the liquid, cut the time from cutting board to table to a swift 20 minutes and dropped the dumplings. Instead, for a crisp and instant finishing flourish, I top my Mexistrone with a handful of crushed corn chips.

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Mexistrone Soup

Makes 6 servings

  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 cup free yellow corn (no slat added),frozen or canned, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) stewed tomatoes with jalapenos*
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1-1/2 cups spicy tomato juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup corn chips, lightly crushed, optional, for garnish
  1. Heat the oil in a medium Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Saute onion and carrot 3 minutes. Add garlic and squash. Cook, stirring, 2 minutes.
  2. Add corn, black and pinto beans, stewed tomatoes with their liquid, oregano and basil. Pour in juice, and 1/2 cup water. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer 5 minutes. Season to taste with pepper and serve with corn chips, if using.
  3. Soup can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

    *As a substitute for stewed tomatoes with jalapenos, saute a finely chopped fresh jalapeno pepper with the vegetables.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
167 calories,
3 g. total fat (less than 1 g. saturated fat),
29 g. carbohydrate,
7 g. protein,
8 g. dietary fiber,
610 mg. sodium

Diabetic Exchanges: 1-1/2 Bread/Starch, 1 Vegetable, 1/2 Fat