Fort Wayne – When Javier Gasnarez began work as director of dining services and chef at Harbour Assisted Living of Fort Wayne the meals were prepared with processed items from a can or bag.
Now, meals are created using fresh items – with an emphasis on health.
Our fried chicken is technically pan fried and finished in the oven. We dont have a fryer here. We dont do french fries. We do roasted potatoes or baked potatoes, he says.
Gasnarez, 48, has been at the helm of the kitchen preparing menus and dinners for around 50 residents of the assisted-living home at Coliseum Boulevard North and Hobson Road for almost two years.
Using produce from a garden planted at Harbour is another way he serves healthy meals.
We have a garden here with tomatoes and zucchini, spaghetti squash and onions. When its not hot, the residents go out with an aide and bring something in for us to use, says Gasnarez, who worked in catering before starting at Harbor. In addition to working at local companies, he and his wife, Tina, catered events for family and friends.
Helping Gasnarez in the kitchen are second year students from Ivy Tech Community College-Northeast, where Gasnarez also teaches.
We make everything from scratch. Thats why I have Ivy Tech students here. It helps them to make stock and other things, he says.
In planning his five-week-cycle menus, Gasnarez knows he needs to keep the dietary needs of the residents close in mind.
I have a certificate in CDM, certified dietary management. That allows me to break down the caloric intake of the residents. We make our own no-sugar-added desserts. We use a lot of fruit, he says.
Once a month, some of the residents will meet with Gasnarez and tell him what they liked or disliked about a particular food or menu item. Someone brought up that they wanted liver and onions so that was served.
Smiling, he says, We had six people like that.
Q. Whats your favorite cookbook?
A. James Beards cookbooks – fresh ingredients and simple cooking. Ive got stacks of them but not one just stands out to me.
Q. What advice would you give beginner cooks?
A. Be passionate about (cooking). I talk about that with my class. They all think theyre going to be the next Emeril. God bless him, but I tell then that theyll have to start with washing dishes. I learned that from the French chef Eric Scuillier at the Grand Wayne Center. I dont know where he is anymore. I was a dishwasher there and he asked me if I wanted to clean a bushel of green beans. And from that moment on, thats how I work now, fast and clean.
Q. What one word would describe your cooking style?
A. Fresh. Fresh, yeah. We make everything from scratch. If I want to make pesto sauce, I would get fresh basil, fresh pine nuts.
Q. Who does most of the cooking at home?
A. Uh, my wife does, and, yes, shes a better cook than I am.
Roasted Root Vegetable Soup
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 pound parsnip, peeled, diced into 2-inch cubes
1/4 pound rutabaga, peeled, diced large
1/4 pound carrots, peeled, diced large
1/2 Spanish onion, diced large
1 1/2 pounds pumpkin, fresh, peeled and deseeded, diced into 2-inch cubes (pumpkin purée can be substituted if fresh pumpkins are not available)
2 ounces butter
1/4 ounce ginger root, peeled, chopped
3 garlic cloves, whole
1 quart chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt, as needed
Pepper, as needed
Toss root vegetables, pumpkin and onions in canola oil. Roast in a 400 degree oven until golden brown. Heat butter in a large stock pot big enough to hold all ingredients. Add remaining ingredients, (except parmesan), and including roasted vegetables and cover. Allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until parsnips and pumpkin are soft. (Cooking times will vary depending on size of parsnips and pumpkin.) After parsnips are soft, uncover and purée to a smooth consistency. Additional chicken stock may be needed to bring to a consistency of thick soup. Add Parmesan cheese and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper. Serve in ramekin or side dish with Parmesan sprinkled on top. Makes 1 1/4 gallons.
Turkey and White Bean Stew
2 pounds roast turkey meat, cooked, diced into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup shallots (whole if small, cut in half if large), peeled
1 1/2 celery ribs, diced small
1 green pepper, diced small
2 teaspoons garlic, chopped
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1/4 bunch thyme, chopped
1/4 bunch rosemary, chopped
1/4 cup turkey stock
3 ounces olive oil
1 cup zucchini, seeded and diced
2 1/2 (15-ounce) cans cannelloni, white beans, drained
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Cook garlic, green pepper, celery and shallot in olive oil until translucent. Add herbs and cook 1 minute. Add zucchini and scallion and sauté for additional 2 minutes. Add turkey stock and beans. Allow to cook for 10 minutes over low simmer. Adjust consistency with additional stock if needed. Fold in diced turkey. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 10 to 12 servings.
Honey Lime Vinaigrette
2 teaspoons lime zest, minced, very fine
1/2 cup lime juice, fresh squeezed only
2 teaspoons shallots, fresh, minced
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 ounces canola oil
3 ounces olive oil
1/4 bunch parsley, chopped fresh
1 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Combine lime zest and juice, shallots, garlic and honey in a small, non-reactive pan over medium high heat. Reduce to 1/4 cup (syrup consistency). Remove from heat; chill. In a medium mixing bowl, add lime juice reduction with Dijon mustard, vinegar and onion powder. Stir to combine. Combine oils. Slowly add oil mixture in a thin stream into lime mixture, whisking constantly. Add chopped parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill for service. Whisk to combine as needed. Makes 1 cup.