APPCA member Gloria Bakst is a personal chef who specializes in cooking for any medical condition and good health. Among the conditions she focuses on is cancer. We asked her to contribute a guest post here to explain her background, the challenges of working with clients who have cancer, and the discoveries she’s made that have helped them. She generously agreed and even provided us with photos and a soup recipe that she makes for clients undergoing chemo and radiation. If this is an area you are interested in focusing on in your business, you’ll want to read this.

I’ve been doing healthy cooking for the past 40 years. It has been a slow evolution of being educated and applying it to my recipes. I started by taking private macrobiotic cooking classes, which then developed into starting a small catering business.

As a trained personal chef and nutritionist, over the past several decades I’ve cooked for, counseled, and supported individuals seeking to improve their health, lose weight, manage special diets or health conditions, and recover from disease or surgery.

My menus range from macrobiotic to heart healthy, with a focus on flavor and freshness. My current company, Chef Gloria B, continues to offers my personal chef services, including healthy meal preparation customized to clients’ needs, as well as cooking classes and grocery tours.

From 1997 to 2004, while working for Abbott Labs, at ZonePerfect Nutrition, I advised more than 100 people daily on the Zone diet and lifestyle. My weekly “Cooking With Gloria” column on the ZonePerfect website was followed by a quarter million people. I have created hundreds of recipes for health, which have appeared in the Weight Watcher’s Grilling Cookbook, Weight Watchers Meals in Minutes Cookbooks, The Jewish Vegetarian Year Cookbook, and The Healing the Heart Cookbook. These recipes and my approach to a balanced lifestyle have been published by McGraw Hill in my book, ZonePerfect Cooking Made Easy (September 2006).

In 2011, a woman who had stage 4 breast cancer contacted me regarding doing personal chef work for her. She introduced me to Thea, her nutritionist, who had many years working with patients with cancer. Thea gave me a list of foods my client could not have. I cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner her and it was very challenging because in addition to the restrictive nature of the diet, her taste buds kept changing. However, since I happen to be a person who loves food challenges I was game to figure out how to keep her eating and eating well; it makes me more creative!

I had many opportunities to discuss cooking for cancer clients with Thea. I worked with this woman for four years until she unfortunately passed but I continue to get more clients who have cancer and use Thea’s list whenever I cook for clients. I also got involved with the Cancer Nutrition Consortium. However, I have learned through the years that different nutritionists have different points of view regarding cancer patients and food. I have introduced myself to the nutritionists at Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Joslin Diabetes Center. Many are fearful of imposing what they think would be beneficial to the patients because it is restrictive and for fear that the patients wouldn’t eat. Many feel that just feeding cancer patients, because they get so thin, is the most important thing to do.

I have worked with many patients who have liver, brain, throat, lymphoma, and other cancers. The important thing is to find out as much as you can regarding their taste buds at the moment and work at finding creative solutions that will taste delicious and be beneficial.

Because of my background in macrobiotic cooking, I make a bone marrow soup that Thea told me about. This soup is so helpful to all cancer patients’ going through chemo and radiation because it helps to prevent nausea and has all the food important to their health at this time. No, it won’t help them put any weight on but patients aren’t going to gain weight anyway during this period. At least when they have these foods, they are getting excellent nutrition without any negative side effects.

The most important nutrition advice I can give to anyone cooking for anyone with cancer is NO DAIRY OR SUGAR! There is much more but if anyone is interested they can contact me at gloria@chefgloriab.com.

I get emails from all over the country asking me if I know anyone in their area who could help them. I would like to put together a list of personal chefs who understand how to cook for cancer patient and be able to give referrals.

I feel like this has been my life’s mission. I personally gave up sugar when I was 23 and became lactose intolerant at 37. I really feel as though each step of my journey was about healthy delicious cooking. It’s kept changing as life has taken its course.

Bone Marrow Soup
From Gloria Bakst
Yield: 4 quarts (about 4 days worth of soup)

This soup is intended to nourish the blood. Gloria suggests buying everything organic and from Whole Foods Market. The best bones to get are organic, hormone free, antibiotic-free, beef or bones. Use all the vegetables your client likes in small quantity, it fills up a large soup pot. While she lists vegetables, herbs, and spices below, other optional ingredients are shitake mushrooms, ginger, and various herbs.

Ingredients

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds beef marrow bones, organic
Purified water
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or more
½ tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary or more
3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley or more
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
6 to 8 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 bunch small sized beets, boiled with skin removed
1 large bunch beet greens, chopped
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 large leek, finely chopped
1 bunch baby bok choy (or more)
1/2 to 1 whole burdock root, peeled and chopped (can be found at Asian markets)
2 chopped carrots (or more)
1 bunch baby kale
2 parsnips, peel and chopped
5 fresh turmeric, peeled and chopped (or more)
Himalayan sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions
In a large pot, place the bones and cover them with purified water. Add thyme, rosemary, parsley, oregano, basil, and garlic. Cover the pot and slowly bring to a boil over medium heat, then lower the heat and simmer for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Cut the vegetables into small pieces and place in the pot, along with the turmeric. Cook for an additional 40 to 60 minutes. Add Himalayan sea salt, pepper, and taste.

Remove the bones. They can be given to your client to suck on if they wish.

The soup can be pureed if you wish after it is cooked. Some clients want a smooth consistency. Others like the vegetables in small chunks. This soup can be frozen.

What is your area of specialization? If you don’t have one, are you becoming interested in serving niche clients?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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Last week I wrote about a long-time favorite recipe of mind: The Vegetarian Epicure’s Eggplant Soufflé. It caught member Suzy Dannette Brown’s attention. The owner of The Brown Bag Nutrition & Chef Services loves eggplant and decided to add more Middle Eastern flavors–and make it for herself. That same day the eggplant was in the oven roasting and her creative juices flowing. Suzy added caramelized red onions, Mediterranean oregano, substituted grated parmesan for fresh sheep feta (love this idea), cow’s milk for almond milk, and oats for wheat flour.

I asked her why she made the changes.

“Well, I love roasted eggplant to the point of almost burnt,” she explained. “This is why I roast it till it is collapsing. I find it is easier if you cut it in half versus leaving it whole. I prefer this method. The end product is to my personal liking. I know roasting it whole until very very soft other people like better. That is, I think a personal choice. 

“I love red onions so deeply caramelized (just before burning) with brandy. Sometimes you may need more fat in the pan so they do not burn. I use a small red onion. I think red onions caramelize better than their yellow and white siblings. I also prefer the flavor. 

“Putting the two together is amazing.”

Suzy also added the garlic to the roux to permeate the roux with the garlic flavor. Adding in the chopped caramelized onions, she said, darkens the roux. “It’s a quick way to turn it from blond to brown,” she said.

Because eggplant to her is so Mediterranean, Suzy used the oregano and feta. In fact, she suggests using a zaatar spice mix to really hike those flavors.

Finally, she doesn’t drink cow’s milk and so chose almond milk and prefers oat flour to all-purpose wheat flour.

Suzy’s next step is to work with aquafaba (chickpea water found in canned chickpeas), whipping the aquafaba to replace whipped egg whites.

“I love taking traditional recipes and see how I can make them vegan,” she said.

Eggplant Soufflé for 2
Suzy Dannette Brown, The Brown Bag Nutrition & Chef Services

Ingredients
1 cup roasted eggplant, pat dry and chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon butter
1/2 teaspoon avocado oil
1/4 cup sliced red onion
1/2 teaspoon Mediterranean oregano
1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon oat flour
1 medium clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup almond milk
1 ounce fresh sheep feta, crumbled
2 large eggs, separated
Middle Eastern chili sauce (optional)

2 10.5-ounce ramekins, buttered and sprinkled with salt and pepper

Directions
Preheat oven to 400°.

Slice 1 small eggplant in half lengthwise. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a lined sheet pan flesh side down. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the pulp is soft and caramelized. Cool to room temperature. Scrape out all the pulp and discard the skin. Place the pulp on a paper towel to drain a bit and chop it. Season it with salt and pepper, as needed. This can be done a day in advance.

In a small skillet heat a ½ teaspoon of butter and ½ teaspoon of avocado oil. Add red onion. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté onions on low until they begin to caramelize and turn golden brown. I like to add a splash of brandy to give the onions a bit more depth of flavor.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the oat flour and let the roux cook for a few minutes. Add minced garlic and caramelized onions to combine well into the roux.

Slowly whisk the almond milk into the roux. When the sauce thickens, remove it from the heat and stir in the oregano, feta and the eggplant pulp. Season with salt and pepper. Add the egg yolks and fold in until everything is well combined.

Whisk the egg whites until they are quite stiff but not yet dry. Stir about a third of the egg whites into the eggplant mixture thoroughly. Gently fold in the remaining whites.

Pile the prepared soufflé ramekins. Place ramekins on a rimed baking sheet, place in oven and fill with some warm water (just enough to bing up ¼ inch of the ramekins). Place in a preheated, 400-degree oven. Bake the soufflé about 10 to 12 minutes. The soufflés should be firm to touch but not dry. Serve at once.

I like to top them with a Middle Eastern chili sauce

Are you a chef who likes to turn traditional recipes upside down? What have been your successes? What didn’t work out quite the way you wanted?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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So, here’s what I will readily admit. Making a soufflé for a dinner party can be tricky business, whether you’re a chef or a home cook.

However, decades ago I discovered a soufflé that is pretty much foolproof and even time forgiving. In fact, it even survives as delicious leftovers. I first made the Eggplant Soufflé from The Vegetarian Epicure when I was just out of college and living in a fifth-floor walk up in Manhattan. My mom had bought me a soufflé dish at Bloomingdale’s, among other “necessary” kitchen items to help me get started with my first solo apartment. I stared at that white dish a lot–but used it to serve salad. No way was I going to make an actual soufflé. That was big league cooking. It was scary stuff. But I pulled out The Vegetarian Epicure and that particular recipe with the eggplant, perhaps my favorite vegetable, intrigued me. I stared it down. I decided this was the time to conquer that mountain.

And it turned out that the recipe was straight-forward, reliable, and produced a divine cloud of cheesy eggplant that my friends and I scarfed down. Let’s face it: In the late 70s and early 80s, it was oh-so-sophisticated a dish for a new college grad to mak– and I did it.

Younger cooks may not be familiar with this cookbook since The Vegetarian Epicure dates back to the early ’70s. I fondly embrace it as part of a moment in time along with The Whole Earth Catalog and Our Bodies, Ourselves. Yet, it stands out as one of the few vegetarian cookbooks of its day that actually had great recipes. Today everyone’s talking about–with justification–Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty and Plenty More. But I think The Vegetarian Epicure deserves a revival.

I thought about all this a awhile ago when a friend of mine, a wonderful cook and cookbook writer, Kathy Strahs, posted a piece on Facebook about her challenges in making a soufflé and I responded by bringing up this recipe and book. Then I thought, “Wait a sec. It’s been decades since I’ve made this. I wonder if it holds up all these years later.”

So, I pulled out the much worn book, which opened directly to the recipe, and gave it a try. And, yes, my friends, it’s still as forgiving and fabulous as ever. The flavor is smooth, the texture rich and creamy. It’s not loud and bold. It’s actually a kind of comfort food.

So, I feel the need to share this with you, in case you, too, have been intimidated by the idea of making a soufflé–or think they’re passé. What I realized is that it is a great recipe for personal chefs to make for vegetarian clients who want a catered dinner party. And it’s a great recipe for those of you who also teach cooking classes. Here is a true confidence booster for home cooks, including kids, who may assume that soufflés are a guaranteed fail.

Now, I really don’t change a thing in this recipe (okay, I do add an extra clove of garlic and cook it up in a larger saucepan than called for, but that’s it). But one thing I did come up with years ago was a spicy tomato relish to accompany it.

The relish is simple: fresh chopped tomatoes, julienned fresh basil, a diced jalapeño, diced red onion, minced garlic, sea salt, and a dash of balsamic vinegar. You may not think this soufflé/relish combo works, but I love it still. It brings the punch I like to an otherwise mild, comforting dish. These days, I also appreciate that the soufflé is low carb and low fat.

Eggplant Soufflé
From The Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 medium eggplant (about 1 lb.)
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. butter
1 small clove garlic, put through a press
2 Tbs. flour
1 cup milk
2 to 3 oz. fresh-gated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
3 egg yolks
4 egg whites
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar

Directions
Bake the eggplant in a pie dish in a 400-degree oven for about 45 minutes or until the pulp is soft. Cool it under running water so that you can handle it, then split it in half and let the excess water drain out. Scrape out all the pulp and mash it well. Season it with a teaspoon of salt.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan [note: use something larger since all the ingredients will go into it.].  Stir in the flour and let the roux cook for a few minutes.

Heat the milk slightly and beat it into the roux with a whisk. When the sauce thickens, remove it from the heat and stir in the grated cheese and the eggplant pulp. Season with black pepper. Finally, add the egg yolks, lightly beaten.

Add a pinch of cream of tartar to the egg whites and beat them with a whisk until they are quite stiff but not yet dry. Stir about a third of the egg whites into the eggplant mixture thoroughly. Gently fold in the remaining whites.

Pile the mixture into a buttered 6-cup soufflé dish and place it gently into a preheated, 350-degree oven. Bake the soufflé about 45 to 50 minutes and serve at once.

Do you have an “impossible” dish that is actually very accessible for clients and cooking class students? 

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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Are we in the age of salmon collars? Back in the 80s, if you had a dinner party, chances are you were going to serve salmon “steaks”–remember them? These were thick cuts of salmon cut perpendicular to the backbone.

Then we seemed to evolve into fillets. They’re the same meat–but instead cut parallel to the backbone and the bone. Fillets–of all kinds of fish–are still hugely popular. And delicious. But I’d like to think we’ve now evolved to enjoying more cuts of more fish. The belly. The tail. The cheeks. Maybe even the whole fish. At a time when we’re all concerned about food waste, using as much of the fish as possible is just smart, not to mention delicious. And, while I’m talking here about salmon, try tuna, yellowtail, halibut, and rockfish–to name just a few. Whatever is local to your region.


One of my favorite parts is the collar. This is a cut right along the clavicle behind the gills. It’s got some rich belly meat and a lovely fat cap. Get that collar near high heat and the fat caramelizes the skin and it becomes this crispy, luxe fish lollipop that you can grab by the fin to suck off the meat. Oh… And did I mention how cheap they are? At my local fish market in San Diego they’re priced at less than $2 a pound. So, this is also an economical dish to serve at a client dinner party.

Now the question is how to cook them. Yes, they can really flavor up a stew. They’re a delight in a curry. Yet to my mind, they’re really best grilled, but this hasn’t exactly been grilling weather. Instead I could run them under the broiler. Or I could do stove-top grilling using my carbon-steel pan. Since the pan is relatively new to me so I decided to test it out with the salmon using a teriyaki-style marinade I thought could possibly confound it because of the sugar (it didn’t).

What I found was a recipe published a couple of years ago in Food Republic by Myra and Marea Goodman, authors of Straight from the Earth, a vegan cookbook. Their teriyaki recipe is part of a larger one for Teriyaki Tofu Broccolette on Wild Rice, which sounds fabulous. But in the meantime I made the sauce for my collars. Not exactly vegan, but a good recipe is a good recipe.


The sauce calls for what you’d imagine are the usual suspects–soy sauce, brown sugar, unseasoned rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes. It’s pretty simple. Put them all in a small, heavy saucepan together with some additional water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer until it thickens. It’s wonderfully sweet, salty, and sticky.

Now you’re not really going to marinate the collars. Instead you’ll heat up your pan and add an oil with a high smoke point. I used canola. Forget doing the usual seasoning with salt and pepper. The marinade has plenty of each. So clean and trim the collar, which may have some “stuff” hanging on to it–organs and blood lines, for instance. Clip them into two pieces.

Then place them skin side down on the now very hot pan (and open windows, turn on fans because there will be smoke). It won’t take more than a minute or two for them to cook up on the first side. Flip and brush the teriyaki sauce on the cooked side. Let the second side get brown and then flip and remove them to a plate where you’ll brush more sauce on that side.

That’s it. If it burns, don’t worry much about it. That’s just superficial–and makes it all divinely crispy. The meat inside will be amazing. And if your clients feel the need to use their fingers, all the better. Save the rest of the teriyaki sauce for seasoning chicken, vegetables, tofu…. You’ll want to keep it on hand.

Teriyaki Salmon Collars
Serves 4

Teriyaki Sauce
(from Straight from the Earth by Myra and Marea Goodman)

3/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon garlic, finely minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Salmon
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
4 large salmon collars, cleaned
1. To make the teriyaki sauce, combine the soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes and 1/2 cup of water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat.

2. Bring to the start of a boil, and then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.

3. Remove the pan from the heat and let the sauce sit at room temperature while you prepare the salmon.

4. Heat the pan on the stove top. When it starts to smoke add the oil. Then add the salmon collars skin side down. After no more than 2 minutes flip them over. Brush the cooked side with the teriyaki sauce. After about a minute flip the collars and remove them to a serving plate. Brush that side with teriyaki sauce or pour some reserved sauce on it.

5. Serve with rice or other grains.

How are you working to avoid food waste and what less conventional food products are you finding to be really delicious?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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