January 13, 2010

Holy Anchovy

When my kidneys failed six years ago, and I began my low sodium diet, I assumed certain foods were permanently off the “safe food” list. Anchovies, sardines, and any other tiny fish packed in a tin can, I thought, were swimming in sodium, and while I cannot say that I ever consciously chose to eat them before my diet changed, I found myself wincing with culinary jealousy when I read about other cooks using this fishy flavor to enrich their dishes.

Anchovy and herb pate, kale puttanesca, a chunky Mediterranean tapenade, a milky Cesar salad dressing, even bread - these recipes were all beyond my low sodium reach. I thought I had made amends with this reality, who needs anchovies anyways? But when I recently read this recipe for Down and Dirty Pasta e Cecci, my desire to have these mini fish fillets in my tool belt reached an all-time high.

I am always on the lookout for whole ingredients that, in their own right, provide an unique flavor to a dish and can give even a simple bed of lettuce complexity. I consider it a great accomplishment, deserving pats on the back, when I can cook something with a whole circus of flavors without ever reaching for my spice rack.

On Tuesday, while I was on a lovely stroll through the Whole Foods canned food aisle, buying beans of course, I just happened to peruse the packaged fish. As I’ve mentioned before, new, low sodium products crop up every day and it is good practice to constantly investigate familiar shelves for surprise additions. So, following my own advice, I did just that and turned every can of sardines around to look at its nutritional content.

500 mg of sodium. 300 mg of sodium. 70 mg of sodium?! Bam. Boom. I had struck gold. An entire container of Natural Sea Brisling Sardines for 70 mg of sodium, equal to the amount of sodium in one egg. Then gold turned into platinum and I found a container of Crown Prince Wild Caught Kipper Snacks for 60 mg of sodium. After that, things got really ridiculous and low sodium treats began pouring down on me. Naturally smoked Cole’s Petit Rainbow Trout at only 38mg per serving (with 2.5 per package) and a whole can of Crown Prince Boiled Baby Clams for 60mg of sodium. Bread bowl and clam chowder coming to a kitchen near you soon.

Of course, like any good low sodium cook, I bought every single one of these treats, which must have looked extremely strange at the cash register – this girl must really love tin-flavored fish. I am ecstatic at the multitude of culinary doors that have been opened and the new cooking adventures that lay ahead. I’m thinking that beyond using these sardines and kippers for anchovy-related recipes, they can also be chopped and used as a substitute for olives, giving those tangy recipes a similar zip. So friends, at the next few potlucks, expect every contribution I make to be a little fishy…in a good way, of course.

As I sign off for today, I pose a question to you, dear readers. What would you like to read about tomorrow:

1) a how-to on low sodium, miso marinated Chilean sea bass (seriously, you aren’t going to believe this one) or

2) perfectly poached, low sodium Eggs Benedict with dangerously good hollandaise?

Tomorrow’s post is up to you, so leave a comment here or write to sodiumgirl@gmail.com and remember, keep experimenting and as always, chow on.

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