November 22, 2010

Smoked Oyster Stuffing

2 x 10-oz. plain or seasoned croutons
1/4-pound butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup dried currants soaked in Port wine, drained
2 cans smoked oysters
Chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat butter in a 14-inch skillet. Add garlic, croutons, currants, oysters with their oil and saute for a couple of minutes or until well mixed. Add enough chicken stock to moisten but not so much as to make it soggy. Cover and simmer until bread is hot; season with salt and pepper.
This can be made in advance. Reheat, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven until hot and some of bread is crispy.

October 19, 2010

Thanksgiving Chestnuts and Acorn Squash

Now that Michael is eating solid foods again and Thanksgiving is almost upon us, I cooked this chestnut and acorn squash dish which he devoured with as much joy and appetite as in the past. It can be made in advance. Of course you can substitute hubbard squash or pumpkin for the cubed acorn squash. If you can't get roasted chestnuts, use chestnuts packed in water. If you do use those packed in water, be sure to dry them with paper towels or they will water down the flavor.

Makes about 8 servings

1/4-lb butter
2 acorn squash, pre-baked, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 onion, thinly sliced
½ cup almonds, chopped
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 jar (14 ounces) roasted chestnuts, cut into pieces
Juice of 3 limes
Bunch scallions (green onions), most of green tops removed, thinly sliced
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper

Heat the butter in 14-inch skillet. Add sliced onion, cover and simmer until very tender. Add almonds and sauté until slightly golden. Add brown sugar and chestnuts, cover and cook for a couple of minutes. Season the ingredients with salt, cinnamon and cayenne. Add cubed squash and toss together, cover the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes. Uncover and stir until juices have evaporated. Adjust seasoning. Add juice of limes, sliced scallions and adjust the seasoning.

September 04, 2010

Cooking for Michael

One would think that cooking for a very sick person whose throat is radiated everyday for 6 weeks would not yield recipes anyone else could share. But I think these recipes ideas could get anyone through a terribly sore throat, precursor to a cold, when one thinks nothing will work. So here then are things that have worked well for him and that he really enjoys and looks forward to and could be savored during the most ordinary of sore throats.
Porcini sauce
Anyone who knows me a tiny bit know how much I rely on dried porcini to develop sauces full of punch. What I have done for Michael is to cook 1 onion and a 10 ounce package of white mushrooms in some butter. To that I add a handful of chopped reconstituted dried porcini mushrooms and its soaking liquid. I reduce that until quite dry, add heavy cream and stock and puree until smooth. It is wonderful stirred in with cooked vermicelli, very soft polenta or cream of wheat.
Coconut sauce
I cook rice noodles for 20 minutes (that's how soft it has to be for Michael to swallow), drain and toss them with stock, coconut milk and mix in pureed baby carrots.
Fortified milk
This is such a help and tip given to us by the hospital. It simply involves stirring 1 cup of dry powdered milk into a quart of whole milk. He can use this with cereals and shakes.
The joy of baby foods
Michael is restricted to very soft foods. Loose cream of wheat, polenta, and mostly soft, soft vermicelli. I'm making terrific use of baby foods - vegetables and fruit to boost what he can eat. So he can stir baby bananas and apples into cream of wheat, pour on fortified milk and maple syrup. I stir baby food vegetables in every vermicelli dish he can tolerate. I add baby food fruit to yogurt. I love to make shakes with a bit of ice cream, fortified milk, baby fruit and protein powder.
Fruit juices: oddly, the hardest thing for Michael to swallow is water. I don't know why, but it pains him the most. In order to encourage him to drink fluids, yet not to exacerbate intestinal problems, he drinks fruit juices which I suggest cutting with a bit of water and then adding a tablespoon or so of coconut milk to add calories and cut acidity.

This has been the most excruciating and difficult challenge to my cooking skills. Yet I feel we are getting through this; he is not losing weight and in two weeks we can concentrate on healing. I'm forever grateful that I did become a chef; who knew this would be the most challenging moment of my career and the most rewarding because we both know this is helping him enough so that he can endure the pain of chemotherapy and radiation. I feel good.