A Meal In A Pot From Chef Morales

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - September 28, 2011
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Chef Hector Morales. Photos courtesy Hector Morales

Chef Hector Morales began cooking Italian food at a restaurant in New Jersey at the age of 14, and hasn’t stopped cooking since!

He was accepted at the prestigious Johnson and Wales University Culinary Arts Program, and continued his culinary education under the direction of Swiss, German and Norwegian master chefs in Europe. For a period, he served as banquet sous chef at S.A.S. Hotels Scandinavia in Oslo, Norway, and also served at the pleasure of the king and royal family of Norway as banquet chef.

Prior to joining Turtle Bay Resort as executive chef, Hector was executive chef on two major cruise lines and chef de cuisine at Stouffer Wailea Beach Resort on Maui.

Chef Morales has realized his dream at Turtle Bay with the opening of Leonardo’s, an affordable family-style restaurant specializing in house-made pastas, thin-crust pizzas and meat and fish dishes with a real Italian touch. It has a full menu with appetizers, salads and one of the most delicious minestrone soups I have tasted. The restaurant is open for dinner daily, and it has a very reasonably priced Prime Rib and Italian buffet Saturday nights. For more information, call Turtle Bay Resort at 293-6000.

Of course, I had to get the recipe for the minestrone, and Morales was kind enough to share it with MidWeek readers. It is a powerhouse of nutrition and a great way to get the keiki to eat their veggies. Minestrone has no set recipe and is usually made with seasonal ingredients. The ancient Romans saw the health benefits of these hearty soups and they became a staple in their diet, along with pasta. It can be a meal served with a crusty loaf of Italian bread and a tossed salad.

Tasty, hearty minestrone


* 2 cups cooked cannelli beans
* 2 cups each diced onion, celery, carrots, zucchini, eggplant and potatoes
* 1/2 cup diced leeks
* 1/4 cups pancetta (Italian smoked bacon) or regular bacon, or omit for vegetarian soup
* 1 teaspoon each dried basil, oregano andthyme
* 1 bay leaf
* 1/4 cup chopped garlic
* 3 cups chopped tomatoes
* 1/2 cup tomato paste
* 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon (or vegetable bouillon) mixed with 2 quarts water
* 1/4 cup olive oil
* salt and pepper, to taste
* 2 cups baby spinach, blanched (add about 10 minutes before soup is done)

In soup pot, add olive oil, leeks, garlic and pancetta and sauté until translucent. Add celery, onions, carrots, zucchini, eggplant, thyme, basil, oregano and bay leaf. Add tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, chicken bouillon mixture, potatoes and cannelli beans, bring to a boil and let simmer for 45 minutes.

Makes six servings.

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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