Chef Peled provides advice to caregivers on how to make fresh fruits and vegetables safe for people who are on antimicrobial diets and cannot have fresh fruits and vegetables. She advises them to use a thermometer so they can blanch the foods for 1 minute in water of 180º, then plunge the food in ice water to stop the cooking. The result will be slightly softer than when totally raw, but the fruit or vegetable will still be appealingly whole.
The mother of a young daughter, Chef Peled is especially affected by the pediatric patients and has devised ways to make their food appealing and fun.5,6 She caters to patients whose sense of taste has changed due to chemotherapy and who can only taste something if it is bitter, salty, or lemony. She says, “I’ll concentrate on what they can taste rather than what they can’t, and make it taste like that. Kids love salt and vinegar flavored potato chips, so I know that’s what they can taste. I’ll use vinegar for marinating and also use vinegar reductions for sauces.” She created a lemon pizza for patients who can only taste lemon, and she uses turkey and a little liquid smoke flavor to replicate bacon.
SMALLER IS BETTER
Chef Peled also likes to miniaturize items that are usually unappetizing when served full size to a sick child, so a plate might consist of mini-kebabs and small potatoes stuffed with broccoli and sour cream. Children in the hospital might have a dinner of a few small foods on one plate, accompanied by a shot glass of gazpacho crammed with pureed vegetables. Pureed vegetables are also hidden in Chef Peled’s pasta sauce, which she uses for everything from pizza to miniature calzones stuffed with all sorts of good nutritional fillings.
Although Memorial Sloan-Kettering has an extraordinary kitchen and a large staff, Chef Peled often uses her mobile kitchen to cook or bake with the patients in order to stimulate their interest in food. She gives cooking lessons of her tips and techniques to caregivers. A wall in her office is plastered with handmade thank-you cards from her young patients and notes from their grateful parents. And, she is a proponent of the take-out and unusual container philosophy: she uses her stash to serve patients their special-request foods in pizza boxes, fast food and Chinese food take-out containers, milkshake cups, or other unique receptacles. The results are familiar, fun and appealing—and are eaten!
This chef has a wonderful philosophy about making hospital food delicious: “If any place needs nutritious food that people enjoy eating, it’s a hospital. If I know I can make that happen, why would I say no?” ONA
A sample of Pnina Peled’s recipes
Chef Peled’s recipes featured on the “Rachael Ray Show,” aired on April 21, 2011.
Bette Kaplan is a medical writer based in Tenafly, New Jersey.
1. Vora S. For healing, meals made to order. The New York Times. January 16, 2011:MB1. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/16/nyregion/16sloan.html?scp=1&sq=pnina%20peled&st=cse. Published January 14, 2011. Accessed January 11, 2012.
2. Nutrition services. The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Web site. http://www.mdanderson.org/patient-and-cancer-information/guide-to-md-anderson/patient-and-family-support/nutrition-services.html. Accessed January 11, 2012.
3. ChooseMyPlate.gov. USDA Web site. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/. Accessed January 11, 2012.
4. Bourgeois S. Unique culinary careers: Pnina Peled. DICED The Official Blog of the Institute of Culinary Education. http://blog.iceculinary.com/2011/02/14/unique-culinary-careers-pnina-peled/. Accessed January 11, 2012.
5. Cooking with … Executive chef Pnina Peled. News9. Department of Pediatrics, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. 2011;5(1):6-8. http://www.mskcc.org/sites/www.mskcc.org/files/node/1353/documents/news9-issue12.pdf. Accessed January 11, 2012.
6. A cancer fighting chef. “Rachael Ray Show.” Air date April 21, 2011. http://www. rachaelrayshow.com/show/segments/view/cancer-fighting-chef/. Accessed January 11, 2012.