Cool (and refreshing!) as a cucumber
Earlier this week, the Cancer Support Community in Rehoboth invited me to conduct a nutrition workshop. These are regularly scheduled by CSC, and several local chefs and culinary professionals have shared their cooking skills. CSC offers a range of classes, workshops, lectures and support groups for people coping with cancer.
When I planned my presentation, I focused on a few things. First, I wanted fresh, local, preferably organic ingredients. I avoided anything with preservatives or additives that might be problematic for people dealing with cancer and dietary restrictions. I found everything I needed at Lloyd’s Market in Lewes.
Second, I made sure the recipes weren’t overly complex or time-consuming. I stayed away from dishes that required a long list of ingredients, lengthy preparation or highly specialized techniques. When managing the demands of a cancer diagnosis and the sometimes exhausting treatment, simple is best.
My third criteria was to feature healthy, nutritious ingredients. The three dishes I chose are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Although there is a little butter, olive oil or cream in each, the amounts are quite small. I also used less salt than most recipes called for, as radiation and chemotherapy regimens often alter taste sensations.
I’m not sure if it was the time of the workshop (noon, the lunch hour) or the fact that the day was sunny and temperate, but we had a full house with every chair filled. I began by cooking a pot of couscous, pointing out that I didn’t add the tablespoon of butter specified on the box, because we were using this in a salad and would be mixing in olive oil.
While the couscous steamed, I assembled the cucumber soup, demonstrating my less-than-stellar skills with a vegetable parer as I removed the cucumber skins. If I’d been able to find baby cukes, I could have left their tender skins intact, but these were larger specimens with pretty thick peels.
I threw the chopped cucumber (minus the skin and most of the seeds) into a blender, adding lemon juice and plain yogurt. Once they were blended, I drizzled in some olive oil, and we were ready to put the soup in the refrigerator to chill. We could have served it immediately, but it tastes creamier when it’s colder.
As I shucked the corn and stripped the cobs, I managed to keep most of the kernels in the bowl. After the pat of butter melted, a minced shallot went into the skillet to soften. The kernels were added and cooked a couple of minutes, before a dollop of heavy cream splashed in. Covered over low heat, this simmered a bit while I made the salad.
Before tossing the ingredients into the salad bowl, I whisked together a dressing of olive oil, rice wine vinegar, lemon juice and thyme leaves. Then I combined the dressing with the cooked couscous, kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes and garbanzo beans. When I served the samples, I added a couple of peach slices to each plate – this was a nutritious and delicious combination of sweet and savory.
The cucumber soup was seasoned with fresh dill and served with a pinch of lemon zest, a delightful cool choice for a hot summer day. And when I served the creamed corn, my favorite comment from the group was, “This is so much better than the canned stuff!”
Couscous & Peach Salad
1 C couscous
1 1/2 C water
1/4 C rice wine vinegar
1/4 C olive oil
2 T lemon juice
1/2 t chopped thyme leaves
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 C chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 C chopped kalamata olives
2 sliced peaches
Combine couscous and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes; fluff grains with a fork. In a serving bowl, whisk together olive oil, rice wine vinegar, lemon juice and thyme. Add couscous, beans, tomatoes and olives; stir to combine. Arrange peach slices on top and serve. Yield: 4 servings.
1 lb cucumbers, peeled, seeded & chopped
1/2 C plain yogurt
3 T lemon juice
2 T olive oil
1 T chopped dill
salt, to taste
lemon zest, for garnish
Combine cucumbers, yogurt and lemon juice in the bowl of a blender or food processor. Pulse while gradually adding the olive oil, processing until incorporated. Transfer to a serving bowl and stir in dill; season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature or chilled, garnished with lemon zest. Yield: 4 servings.
4 ears of corn
1 T butter
1 minced shallot
1/4 C heavy cream
1 T chopped parsley
salt & pepper, to taste
Shuck the corn and cut the kernels from the cob; set aside. Using the blunt edge of the knife, run the blade along the cob to collect the juices; set aside. Melt the butter in a wide skillet over medium. Add the shallot and sauté until softened. Add the corn kernels and scrapings; cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cream and cook another few minutes. Toss in the parsley; season to taste with salt and pepper. Yield: 4 servings.