According to that great tomb of French cooking and technique, Larousse Gastronomique, a purée is a creamy preparation obtained by processing and sieving cooked foods (or by using a blender or food processor).
For many seniors, the necessity of a soft diet is inescapable. Nutrition for seniors is a topic that challenges the cook to provide tasty, puréed foods that will bring joy while being nutritionally sound and safe for your loved one. Be frustrated no more! Support is on the way. Yes, it is possible to make tasty, nourishing holiday meals that individuals with dysphagia can enjoy while being certain that they maintain a properly hydrated and healthy nutritional status.
By following a few basic guidelines for understanding the tools and the ingredients to use, you can take any meal and make it fit the confines of one who must eat a diet of soft foods. Once understood, let your imagination fly and create beautiful meals that contribute to the happiness, health and longevity of your loved one.
Tools and Ingredients
Many authorities on the subject of tools for people who require a puréed diet suggest using a mini food processor. Apparently this is a cook’s best friend when creating a menu of puréed delights because it does the best job of attaining the correct consistency.
On the ingredients side of things, one of the main considerations is thickening agents for purées. There are the natural ones that are used with regularity in every kitchen. Traditionally, the professional chefs often make vegetable purées that are fairly thick and use them as a garnish or condiment. For making soups, they are diluted with a liquid. Certain vegetables which are too watery to give a sufficiently thick puree are thickened with a binding agent potato puree, cornstarch, or potato starch or a thick béchamel sauce.
Additionally, there are instant, off the shelf thickeners that promise to provide a honey or nectar thickened consistency by simply adding some water to the suggested amount of thickener. The ingredients of these products vary, many are gluten and wheat free. These products have been formulated specifically for people who have dysphagia.
The variety of vegetables that make their appearance during the holidays lend themselves beautifully to purées. With various thickening agents at your fingertips, just about anything is fair game when it comes to being puréed.
The following vegetables may easily be puréed with minimal, if any need for thickening: artichoke, asparagus, eggplant, beets, carrot and other root vegetables, celery, mushrooms, endive, cauliflower, zucchini, chicory, spinach, fava beans, navy or kidney beans, lentils, chestnuts, split peas, green peas, potato and pumpkin.
Puréed garlic, watercress, and tarragon can be used as condiments. Purées of meat, game or fish are also prepared and traditionally mixed with a brown or white sauce and are classically used as fillings for vol-au-vent, bouchées, or barquettes, all are forms of puff pastry and pastry shells or as a stuffing for artichoke hearts or pancakes. Using this same method allows you to include your loved one in the holiday feast without being deprived of any of the core offerings.
By simply taking a portion size of meat and placing it in the food processor with a little broth or stock and thickener of your liking, you can create a flavorful version of the main course.
Pâté of Autumnal Mushrooms with Scallion-Walnut Topping Recipe
The recipe offered here is one that might be perfect for all of your guests during the holiday season, including those who require a soft diet. Traditionally the nuts and breadcrumbs maintain their texture, here they should be puréed fully along with all the other ingredients. This is based on a great recipe that was originated by Deborah Madison; one of the great vegetarian chefs of the world. It is a bit involved, but hey, it is holiday time! It is a special dish! Enjoy!
1 ounce dried porcini, about 1 cup
2 medium leeks, white parts only
1 pound white mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 to 1/2 pound assorted mushrooms such as cremini or shiitake
6 tablespoons butter, plus extra for the pan
1or 2 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup walnuts
Salt and fresh pepper to taste
2 1/2 teaspoons chopped thyme
1 cup of cream or half and half
1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in 1 1/2 cups of warm water.
- Butter your dish for the pate, and line it with parchment including the sides and butter it again.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Remove the rehydrated porcini mushrooms and give them a good squeeze.
- Decant the soaking water into a saucepan leaving the sediment behind. Boil this down until about 2 tablespoons remain.
- Meanwhile, sauté chopped leeks, garlic, and walnuts over a medium heat, until the leeks are tender. Season with salt and transfer to a food processor.
- Melt some more butter and sauté the mushrooms. It may be necessary to do this in batches. Add a pinch of thyme and sauté until the mushrooms begin to brown. Add these to the food processor.
- Process the breadcrumbs, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Once all these ingredients are puréed, transfer to a mixing bowl and add the eggs and cream that have been well mixed. Combine these ingredients until all are well mixed.
- Transfer the mixture to your prepared pâté dish and cover tightly with foil. Place the dish onto a deep sided baking dish in your oven. Pour hot water into the baking dish so that it comes halfway up the sides of your pâté dish. Bake in the oven for an hour and 15 minutes. The top of the pâté should be brown on top and it should be pulling away from the sides of the dish. Remove and refrigerate until completely chilled, overnight is best but at least six hours. Allow the pâté to reach room temperature before serving.
- To prepare for service, set a platter over the pâté dish then invert. Ease the pâté dish off of the pâté and peel off the paper. A hot knife can smooth out any imperfections.
For the topping:
1 Tablespoon butter or olive oil
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
2 bunches scallions, including half of the greens thinly sliced
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Melt a little butter or olive oil then sauté the walnuts until they begin to color a little. Add scallions and parsley and cook until they are bright green and tender. Season with salt and pepper. It is up to you if you need to purée this topping as well or if you can use this as is, to the top of the mushroom pâté.