Ingredients are a big part of the Essential Puree approach to the dysphagia kitchen. Part of the Essential Puree system is stocking the pantry with great go-to ingredients for every season of the year.
Essential Puree is all about bringing the trends of the food world into the dysphagia kitchen. I focus on expanding the variety of dishes made from great ingredients, while paying careful attention to the science of the safe swallow. It is about nutritional healing and clean eating.
I have devoted many blog posts to the importance of using whole grains. I stress the nutritional profile, the phyto-nutrients and the fiber that are part of the glory of whole grains. That is why I have introduced some of the new kitchen appliances. By using good prep, many grains thought to be too difficult to puree are rendered into a smooth consistency. The closer you are to the natural state of the grain, the more nutrients you get. Noodles have less of the original nutrients than the grain. Cereals have less than noodles. The more you refine the product, the more the nutrients go. And then the product has to be enriched.
So, the Essential Puree philosophy is: Use the best form of the grain, taking into account the safety of the product for puree. The creation of puree may change the texture of an ingredient, but you maintain the nutrition. When I introduce ingredients, I tell you why I use them in recipes from pancakes to pie crusts. Some of my dessert recipes call for whole wheat pastry flour. My pancake recipe in the Guidebook calls for buckwheat flour pancake mix, because it reduces the gluten content and contains excellent nutrients. I use other flours for crepes and cookies and cakes. In every case, it is about nutrition and the elimination of harmful ingredients.
Some of these flours are slightly more expensive than bleached all-purpose flour, the kind you find on the supermarket shelf. One reason I recommend them is flavor. The process of puree increases the surface area of the food pureed. Therefore, the foods must have a bigger taste to begin with or the flavor is lost. That is why the common complaint of those with swallowing disorders is that the food that comes from the commercial manufacturers and the food that is produced in healthcare facilities has no taste. The cook has to compensate up front or the food loses taste. The flours made from buckwheat, chickpeas and chestnuts have more flavor and less processing. The same is true of rye flour, although rye contains gluten.
Here’s another big secret: since most of these flours contain less gluten, they are better for the puree. In the bowl of the mini food processor or in the pitcher of a blender, gluten tends to get gummy. The consistency for the puree is not good. Cookies, cakes, flatbreads, pancakes, and crepes made with non-gluten flours simply puree better. The one exception to this is the panzanella salad, the class Tuscan salad that is thickened with bread. This is because the bread is soaked in the mild vinaigrette. It is a matter of food chemistry. Don’t get me started.
Some readers may wonder why my ingredient list does not include bleached all-purpose flour, the standard American go-to flour. Especially when food costs are going up. I have very good reason for recommending products that cost more. Here is an article from the magazine Cooking Light that explains why.