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
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
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.
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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.