This is Part 2 of the story about our inpatient food system. If you haven't read Part 1, please see the update and recipe from 7/27.
Almost all the fresh fruits and vegetables used in our patients' meals come through Fresh Point produce distributors on their way to Food Service Partners commissary where they are prepared for serving in our hospitals. Last year we began to explore how we could get some of our produce from small, local, family farms rather than sourcing so much from abroad. We felt that feeding our patients food that is fresh, seasonal, local and sustainably farmed would provide them tasty and healthy food that could aid in their recovery. Added benefits could include a reduction in the total food miles* our food travels, with the resulting reduction in fossil fuel utilization, fewer pesticides used and economic benefits for small farms. It is very helpful for the farmers to know that they have a definite market for their crops.
In partnership with the Community Alliance for Family Farmers, Kaiser Permanente will enter into a six-month pilot sourcing a few fruits and vegetables from farmers in Fresno and the Salinas Valley who are farming with sustainable techniques on farms averaging less than 100 acres. Beginning mid-August, the tomatoes, strawberries and other fruits on the patients' trays will be coming from this diverse group of farmers who match the diversity of our staff and membership.
Critically important for the success and expansion of this program into the future are the Food and Nutrition Service managers from each of the 19 facilities. The managers write the menus. They have the authority to forego ordering asparagus in September when it is not in season in California. I had the opportunity to speak with them recently. Like the bumper sticker says: they can act locally and think globally as they influence Kaiser Permanente's food purchasing power. They are the stewards of this change.
Someday this can expand to include more of the 60 fruits and vegetables we use on the inpatient meal trays. There are additional opportunities and I will report more on this another time.
*Food miles: The distance food travels from where it is grown or raised to where it is ultimately purchased or consumed; from “plough to plate”
I learned about this soup from a superb cook in the family. Part of the fun of making this soup was using different chilis for different batches. Try Anaheims, Pasillas, Poblanos or Chilacas. They all have different degrees of heat. Save this recipe for a weekend as it takes some time.
- 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 1 medium carrot, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp dried or 2 Tbsp fresh thyme
- 2 tsp dried basil or 2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
- 1/2 tsp crushed red chilis
- 5 cups corn kernels, approximately 10 ears (cut these off the cob in a large bowl)
- 1 qt chicken stock
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 chili of choice, roasted, skinned and minced
- 2 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
- 1 oz queso fresco or feta cheese
- 1 to 2 Tbsp milk, maybe more
Skewer the chili. Blacken it over the stovetop burner. Put it in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam a little. When cool, rub off the skin with a paper towel or peel it off with your fingers. Mince the chili.
In a mini-processor, purée the cheese and add milk until a cream-like consistency is achieved.
Heat the oil in a large pot over low heat. Add the onion, season with a little salt, cover and "sweat" until soft, about 5 minutes. (“Sweating” the veggies means cooking them so they get soft, but not brown and crunchy. The latter wouldn't be good in a yellow soup.) Add the carrots, cover and sweat for another 5 minutes. Add garlic, herbs and crushed red chilis, then cover and sweat for 5 minutes. Add corn, season with salt, cover and sweat 5 minutes. Add chicken stock, bring to a boil, cover and simmer 5 minutes.
Purée in blender in batches for 3 minutes remembering the safety tip of covering the lid with a towel to let the steam escape and prevent hot soup from spraying all over the kitchen. Return soup to the pot and season with salt and pepper.
Ladle soup into bowls, stir in chilis and cilantro. Drizzle with the cheese "cream" and serve. This is absolutely worth the effort.