Thursday, April 14, 2011

Post-Kid Kitchen: Salt Freedom

Rice Fusilli with Vegetables and Dry Vermouth
Most of my recent cooking has been inspired by my mother. Just as I'm learning to manage my depression and chronic pain with exercise instead of medication, my mom keeps her blood pressure low by following a very low-salt diet. I enjoy trading recipe ideas and leftovers with my mom, and I'm aware that all too often, I'll rave about something she can't actually eat.

I'll admit to being a sucker for salt. I'll often add salt at the table to an already well-seasoned dish. And fortunately, my blood pressure is doing just fine. But too much salt can have other negative effects on the body - not to mention that it's completely nonnutritive. Salt eating is an acquired habit.

As I aim to use less salt, I've found several recipes that don't seem to "need" it, even to my salt-loving tastebuds.

Simple, Salt-Free Beet Soup

Simple, Salt-Free Beet Soup
Serves 4

4 medium beets
4 cups water
1 onion, diced
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp agave
1 bunch Swiss chard, cut into spoon-sized pieces

Scrub the beets well and cut them into small pieces. Start them cooking in the water, along with the onion. Simmer until the beets are tender, about 40 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and agave. Add the Swiss chard and cook a few minutes more. Serve!

I suspect this soup would be delicious with a dollop of cashew yogurt, but I haven't attempted yogurt-making yet (it's been too cold here!)

Pasta is always a hit at my house. I thought this variation might encourage my suddenly picky kid to eat a few more vegetables. Sadly, my plan didn't work, but the leftovers were delicious the next day!
Rice Fusilli with Vegetables and Dry Vermouth

Rice Fusilli with Vegetables and Dry Vermouth
Serves 4

1 pound mixed vegetables (I used carrot, celery, red bell peppers, asparagus, mushrooms, and the last of a bag of frozen green beans)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large (preferably sweet) onion, diced
4 (or more!) cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 cup dry vermouth
8 oz. rice fusilli
1/4 cup fresh basil, minced or cut in thin strips
1/2 cup julienned sun-dried tomatoes

Start your water heating to blanch the vegetables and cook the pasta. Cut the vegetables into bite-size pieces. If you're using mushrooms, feel free to tear them into little bite-size chunks rather than slicing them. You get more mushroom per bite this way - and tearing up your food is fun! If anyone comments, just call the dish "rustic."

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. (Make sure it's large enough to hold all your vegetables plus the pasta.) Saute the onions in oil until they're translucent. Add the garlic and cook a minute more before adding the mushrooms. After the mushrooms have softened, had the vermouth, and continue cooking until the liquid has reduced by half. Set the skillet aside.

Blanch the vegetables individually, until they are as cooked as you like. (I do mine for about two minutes each.) Remove from the water with a strainer and add vegetables to the skillet. Next, cook the pasta according to package directions. When the pasta is almost fully cooked, reheat the vegetables in the skillet with the onions and vermouth.

Drain fully-cooked pasta and add it to the skillet, stirring to combine. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and about half the fresh basil. Serve garnished with remaining basil.

* * *
Again, this is not me saying, "Down with medication!" Please follow your the recommendations of your doctor/nurse/naturopath/health-care expert with regards to medications. However, I think it's safe to say that all of us living in the United States of Processed Foods could stand to have a little less salt in our diets.



Allison the Meep said...

Like you, I really enjoy the taste of salt on things. And I fortunately have no blood pressure issues either. But I'd really like to begin to cut back and re-train my taste buds to appreciate foods for what they are. I noticed that when I went gluten-free and it forced me to eat less processed foods, my desire for sugar went way down and things began to taste too sweet to me when I had candy. Hopefully this will be the case with salt and I'll be okay with the regular flavors of food.

True story: My dad salts everything. EVERYTHING. He even salts fruits. When I was about 18, I came home one night to find him sitting in his armchair and eating an orange. He was in the middle of pouring salt on it when I walked in. Except that it wasn't salt. It was my small container of glitter that I had been looking for for over a week, and he was glittering his orange slices and then eating them. WHAT!!!??

Baby in Broad said...

Allison, there are no words.