For anyone tackling a low-sodium diet for the first time, start by making sauce. Lots of sauce. From scratch. Why? Because when the fridge is full of colorful sauces, that YOU made, your food will never be without flavor.
People tend to fear that low-sodium food means bland, boring food. And of course, this is not true. There are more spices on the spice rack than just salt. And beyond seasoning, it’s easy to enhance a dish just by adding texture (think: toasted nuts) or unexpected additions (think: cauliflower stuffed burgers) or smells (think: fresh mint).
But there’s something about drizzling a sauce over a thick steak, a bowl of noodles, or even a cold fish salad. Sauce adds one more layer of taste and texture to a dish. Not mention another means of interaction with your food. Because when the sauce is good, no drop gets left behind. And as I’ve been navigating my way through a new anti-inflammatory diet, sauce has become totally essential to enjoying it. As well as stretching the same ingredients just a little bit farther, so no matter how many times I cook cauliflower, with the help of sauce, it always tastes a little different.
So there you have it. Sauce is to low-sodium diets (or any limited diet) as bacon is to normal American food. It makes everything taste better.
But before you dig into the roundup of low-so good sauces below, let me add one more point. When making sauce, you can go by the book and whip up those mother sauces (or other sauces) with the help of trusted recipes. But as with anything in cooking, don’t be afraid to be creative. And break a few rules. Use broccoli in your pesto or peas in your chimichurri. Add curry to your homemade ketchup. Or peaches to your hot sauce. Or blueberries to your steak sauce. Remember: you’re making the sauce and that means you’re in charge.
This weekend, pick a sauce or two or three. Use them throughout the week. And discover the magic they add to even the simplest of meals.
from Sodium Girl’s Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook, photo by Matt Armendariz
1 tsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/4 Vidalia onion, finely diced
6 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
4 tsp honey
2 tsp molasses
2 cups fresh blueberries
Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and stir until combined. Increase heat and bring mixture to a low boil; cook 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 25 minutes. Keep an eye on the sauce; if it is reducing too quickly, turn the heat down or off. Remove cover. Using the back of a wooden spoon, mash blueberries against the side of the pan to release juices. Increase heat to medium and cook until sauce reaches your preferred thickness, 6 to 8 minutes. Strain if desired and serve with steak. Makes 1 1/2 cups sauce.
PEACH JALAPENO HOT SAUCE
1 red or orange bell pepper
1/4 jalapeño pepper
1 peach, pitted and roughly chopped
Preheat oven and cover a baking pan with foil. Cut bell pepper and jalapeño in half. Remove stem and seeds. Then lay them flat on the foil and roast in the oven, on the middle rack, until charred, 15 minutes.
Transfer peppers to a medium bowl, cover with foil, and wait until cool, about 15 minutes. Then remove the skins and add the peppers to a blender or food processor. Add the peaches and puree until smooth. Store the sauce in the refrigerator for up to a week.
PEA CHIMICHURRI coming to Spring issue of Lupus Now Magazine (get your copy!)
1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
2 peeled cloves garlic
Juice from 2 limes (or 1/4 cup any citrus juice)
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup packed, fresh cilantro
Red chili pepper flakes, optional
Fill a medium bowl with ice and water, and place in the refrigerator. Then, bring a small
pot of water to a boil. Add in peas and cook for one minute. Transfer the peas to the bowl
of ice water, resting until cool to the touch, about 5 minutes. Drain the peas and set aside.
In a blender or small food processor, add the peas, lime juice, vinegar, and 1/4 cup oil.
Blend until combined and chunky. Add in the cilantro and chili pepper flakes, continue to
blend until thick and smooth in texture. Use immediately or store in an airtight container
in the refrigerator for up to a week.