Charles Siskin: Pass The Ketchup, Please

Thursday, March 21, 2013 - by Charles Siskin
Curry Squash Soup
Curry Squash Soup

One of the first questions I was asked in my Cardiac Rehab class, which I attend three mornings a week, is how I intend to change my lifestyle?

Are you kidding me? I spent so much of my adult life exercising, exercising, exercising and eating right, I’m the guy who shouldn’t have wound up with my chest cracked open one early morning a week before Christmas this past year.

Family history and my age the doctor was kind enough to explain. Age?  Hadn’t the doctor heard that 70 is the new 30.

Rehab is really a two-for-one because while you are working out on the machines you are also getting a free lecture on what you should eat, how much wine, beer or alcohol you can have each day and how to keep the stress down and the blood pressure under control.

We also had someone from the hospital pharmacy come by one day to talk about the meds we take.  The meds we take is a once-a-week event in my house where I have this 7-day dispenser with individual boxes that I have to fill with a variety of colorful pills that are to be consumed at different times of the day and night.

Sometimes I forget and take my nooners at sunset. Sometimes I feel like I’d like to throw the whole darn thing out the window.

The challenge for me now is how to cook without consuming less than a teaspoon of salt each day. Luckily a number of food manufacturers have seen the proverbial medical writing on the wall and are stocking the can good section with the likes of “no-salt” tomato sauce, less-sodium V-8 juice and best of all “no salt ketchup”.

Here’s the bad news. The cost of these items is higher than their first cousins, the original loaded with salt family, by a good percentage. How, someone asked, can you be charged for an ingredient that has been taken out of the product?  Free enterprise and possibly greed?

However I am moving on and staying stress free by purchasing fresh herbs, using judicious amounts of garlic and where appropriate my no salt ketchup. Whereas in the past I would have shown sympathy for the fellow at the next table dousing everything on his plate in ketchup, it suddenly has brought me comfort when my food otherwise taste like cardboard.

Recently good friends from Chattanooga were down here soaking up the rays of an early spring. I invited them over for dinner and realized that I just presented myself with a new challenger, dinner sans salt and ketchup.

I hit the market fairly early on a Saturday morning and was able to not only get the good things that are stocked in the produce department at that hour of the day but had a chance to converse with the manager.

Here is a handsome, solidly built all high school sports guy (not quite 30) who has been diabetic since he was in his early twenties. Family history strikes again and, doctor, age doesn’t matter.

We are of course on the same page about eating and he is aware what might possibly lie ahead in his life as a diabetic. He wears an inconspicuous monitor that alerts him when his blood sugar starts to sink, or shoots through the ceiling I imagine.

Bottom line to this is how lucky I’ve been and on to the fresh parsley and cilantro. I find some especially nice yellow squash and some the really cool Russian Banana Fingerling Potatoes. Since it is Saint Patrick Day and there is an abundance of perfect heads of cabbage I decide I have to do something symbolic for the holiday and add one to my cart.

I grab a carton of Non-fat Half and Half, some Vanilla flavored yogurt, beautiful red ripe strawberries, take out a loan to get some grapes and head to the check out.

I already have provisions back at the house like the awesome red snapper from right here on the Gulf Coast and a package of mixed lettuces because, while I am normally resistant to packaged greens, the cost of romaine or butter lettuce or spinach would entail taking out a second loan.

I also have some pizza dough I picked up on an earlier visit to the store. I am going to turn this into two loaves of hot bread to go with my first course, Curry Squash Soup. I’ll serve it warm with a dollop of light sour cream

As for the cabbage, I’m going to pick out the best looking leaves, steam them and then wrap my red snapper in them to bake in the oven. Okay it’s not the corn beef and cabbage of my memory but now corn beef is on my “no fly” zone. It won’t fly because it has too much salt.

I’m beginning to wonder if I can swim in the Gulf any longer for fear I might inadvertently take a gulp of the water.  No really, I’ve reached the point of extreme paranoia. Do I need Dr. Phil or Dr. Oz? Or maybe a burger and fries from Five Guys?

As for my dessert I’m going with the vanilla yogurt surrounded by those bright strawberries, a peeled and segmented orange, aka Cutties, assorted walnuts and cashews plus a drizzle of honey.

Healthy, inventive, meets all my requirement. What else could a heart patient ask for? Chicken wings for starters. Bon Appétit.

Recipe for Curry Squash Soup

What you will need:

16 oz Yellow Squash sliced into rounds

1 cup diced sweet onion

2 tablespoons real butter (don’t use butter substitute)

*1 tablespoon Madras Curry powder or more depending on your taste

2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth

2 cups non-fat half and half

Garnish Options:

Non-fat or low fat sour cream

Fresh crab meat


Boil squash rounds until tender, drain and set aside

Sauté onions in butter along with curry powder until onion are soft and golden

Place squash and onions in food processor and pulse until almost smooth leaving some texture

Add some chicken broth while pulsing then remove mixture and place in a soup pot

Place  pot on low heat or flame and add rest of broth and half and half

Simmer soup once it reaches boil for approximately 20 minutes 

Remove from heat and let it cool then place in fridge overnight.



Reheat soup and place in soup bowls

Choose the garnish from the options above or be inventive

Pass some fresh baked bread and have a saucer of EVO (extra virgin olive oil) on hand



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