January 27, 2010

Double Exposure

I know I promised some faux miso marinated cod today (and don’t worry, that lovely little recipe will be popping up later this afternoon).  But first, I have to send a huge thank you to Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, the two genius minds behind food52.com.  These ladies sure know how to cook, write, and bring a community of food lovers together and it was a major honor to show up on their Reciprocity blog roll this morning. I’ve had a blast submitting my recipes on their site and their weekly contests keep my culinary synapses firing.  I feel so alive!  If you haven’t been on food52 yet, you better book it on over when you have a few minutes or hours (you’ll get swept away by the gorgeous photos) to spare.  You’ll also find some great excuses to eat chocolate for breakfast.  Not like you needed one.

And since I may have a few new readers (welcome!) I wanted to also take this moment to briefly explain what this blog, and my cooking, is all about.  I’m bringing back one of my earlier posts on what it is like to lower your sodium intake and how, in reality, it isn’t all that bad.  Enjoy and as always, chow on.

A Terrible Parable…But Nonetheless, Helpful

Let’s face it, food tastes good with salt. French fries, pasta water, even chocolate – salt is everywhere and is the universally adored flavor enhancer. We are so accustomed to eating meals laden with the shimmering crystals that, to cook or eat a dish without them seems like an impossible feat, or at least impossibly boring. When people find out that I cannot have salt, they often react with horror and remark that, if they had to do such a thing, they “would commit hara-kiri.”

But this morning, I thought of an analogy that might illuminate the ultimately positive reality of eating low sodium. Although it takes some getting used to, not relying on salt has helped me discover other ways to heighten the delicious factor in my food. Eating low sodium does not mean eating without flavor. Sweet butter (when browned) can add nutty, earthy and delicious notes to your food. Vinegars, which are mostly sodium free and can help lower your blood pressure, come in many varieties – apple cider, rice wine, balsamic to name a few – and lend a tang and a zip to meats, greens, and even ice cream when reduced to a sauce. And don’t forget about spices – no one said you can’t have spices, you just have to look for the brands that are salt free. Cayenne, cumin, curry, star anise, coriander, fennel seed, mustard, white pepper, wasabi – holy mole, there is no shortage of options here. And then there’s wine reductions and beer baths, honey and molasses, citrus and fresh herbs. Choices abound, your meals will never fall flat.

So here is a small tale to help highlight the silver lining of low sodium living. And bare with me, this gets girly:

Limiting your sodium intake is like someone telling you that you cannot wear black anymore. Ok, at first, that seems like it would be difficult. People love wearing black. It’s slimming, it’s bad-ass, it’s professional, it’s easy. We all have the little black dress or the killer, I’m-going-to nail-this-meeting black suit. So at first, having to clear the closet of all your go-to black items feels like a bad, practical joke. And having to re-fill it with other things (what could those even be?) and re-style your wardrobe (what will I wear!) seems like an expensive and ultimately time-consuming venture.

Then, a moment of brilliance. You realize, a nice navy dress doesn’t look half bad and is just as snappy for business meetings. And actually, that metallic gold number you’ve had your eye on forever, but didn’t think you had the guts to pull off, is actually way more bad-ass than that cliché (and face it, fading) black dress.

The point is, in having to limit your choices, you begin to discover new worlds, new combinations, new possibilities that you would have never otherwise explored. And when that black tie event rolls around and you can’t put on the standard black outfit, you’ll just have to settle for the fuschia pink pantsuit.  And honestly, standing out never is a bad thing.

Magdalena Cabrera January 27, 2010 at 1:35 pm

My father and I were recently the guests at Sodium Girl’s dinner table ( oh, and The By was there too) and we were treated to a delicious low-sodium pasta with pork and sauce dish. We had a cauliflower side dish that was really tasty as well. I am hoping to see this menu appear on a blog one day. What I want to say is this. My father has always, all of his life, salted his food heavily even before tasting it. At this dining experience, he did not salt his food, and he ate it all with such gusto, sans sel ( without salt added). I think this is a huge compliment to our chefs on knowing how to condiment foods to bring out the natural flavors without the need of salt. For my dad to enjoy his meal so thoroughly without the added salt is a real coup. My hat is off to Sodium Girl and The Boy!

sodium girl January 27, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Thanks, Magdalena! I didn’t catch it when he was here, but you’re right, he didn’t ask for the salt. That was a good meal (for which I give most credit to the boy) and I’ll have to recreate and photograph for an upcoming post!

jenn January 29, 2010 at 6:34 am

hi! found your blog via @ChefJaimeLauren ‘ s Twitter, and am really looking forward to reading it! Long story short – life-long BP issues and a crazy childbirth experience have led me to try and restrict my sodium, and finding it brutal! not so much for myself, but for the other people I LOVE to cook for. Looking forward to catching up on your blog and seeing how you handle the challenge. I learned about the “acid trick” while watching Top Chef, actually – a little vinegar works wonders!!

sodium girl January 29, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Hi Jenn! I’m so glad you found the blog. There is nothing I find more satisfying than serving up a meal to friends (without salt) and having no one know the difference. Let me know if you have any particular recipe questions and please share your hits (and misses). I am definitely still learning too!

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