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Side of art with comfort food?

Thirty-eight chicken legs, 10 pounds of potatoes, three pounds of butter, one bunch of celery, five pounds of carrots, four pounds of spaghetti, two bunches basil … the list went on.

Ordinarily, those would be ingredients for a couple of fine dinners. Last week they were art supplies.

Christ Church Parish Episc-opal in Lake Oswego held its annual 'Spirituality and the Arts' camp last week. Susie Coffman, director of Christian education, and Rector Shannon Leach selected 'Images of the Holy Spirit' as the theme for the camp. As is always the case, each artist's response to the theme was an impressive and inspired project that made each of us wish we were the campers.

My descriptions don't do them justice.

Mark Randall had the campers making larger-than-life kites, which soared to the ceiling on the winds of the Spirit.

Marianna Rollinson chose to have campers experience - see, hear, smell, feel - the Holy Spirit by creating personal panoramas within closed boxes. The visions in the boxes could only be seen by flashlight through colored cellophane viewing holes.

Lesley Septoski led the campers through embossing and painting tin with intricate symbols of personal meaning to each camper. The tin was attached to framed mirrors and further embellishment. She wanted the children to recognize the Holy Spirit in them, by reflecting on their own images.

Michelle Dystrom had campers fold paper into 3D prayer structures.

Suzanne Slauson, my culinary partner extraordinaire, and I wanted the campers to experience the Holy Spirit through the comforting foods served at Sunday dinner.

We created four days worth of Comfort Food meals - some as simple as Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Minestrone Soup. Menial chores like peeling potatoes and setting tables became labors of love or acts of devotion that were necessary to produce a quality meal.

The campers acted as hosts during lunch on the day they had their cooking section. They learned to think of what others might need to enjoy the meal they prepared - the spirituality of hospitality.

It's rewarding to see kids gain confidence in the kitchen from new culinary skills. It's fun to see them trying - and enjoying -foods they haven't eaten before.

These few paragraphs can't capture the week - you'd better try this recipe for Minestrone Soup, which received rave re-views from the campers. It is a wonderful way to use a variety of vegetables. Anything you have in the garden or in the vegetable bin can be added to this soup with delicious results. It also provides lots of knife skills practice!

Bon Appetit!

Classic Minestrone

Serves 6 to 8

2 small leeks, white and light green parts sliced thin crosswise (about ¾ cup) and washed thoroughly

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into small dice (about ¾ cup)

2 small onions, peeled and cut into small dice (about ¾ cup)

2 medium ribs celery, trimmed and cut into small dice (about ¾ cup)

1 medium baking potato, peeled and cut into medium dice (about 1 ¼ cups)

1 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into medium dice (about 1 ¼ cup)

3 cups stemmed spinach leaves, cut into thin strips

1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes, packed in juice, drained and chopped

8 cups water

1 Parmesan cheese rind, about 5 by 2 inches

Table salt

1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (about 1 ½ cups)

¼ cup basil pesto or basil leaves

Ground black pepper

Bring vegetables, tomatoes, water, cheese rind, and 1-teaspoon salt to boil in a soup kettle or pot. Reduce heat to medium low, simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender but still hold their shape, about 1 hour.

Add beans and cook just until heated through, about 5 minutes. Remove pot from heat. Remove and discard cheese rind. Stir in pesto or basil leaves. Adjust seasonings, adding pepper and salt, if necessary. Ladle soup into bowls and serve immediately.

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

Randall welcomes your questions and food research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-635-8811 or by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.