Monthly Archives: March 2011

Look What I Made Wednesday – Hawt Dawg!

Yesterday, I arrived in New York.

And from the moment I touched down, I was filled with excitement. Perhaps it was the hustle, the bustle, the sights, and the sounds that sent a bolt of energy through me. Perhaps it was the fact that I was actually wearing real clothes for the first time in months – not a matching two piece made from spandex and cotton. Or maybe it was just the smell of sidewalk food carts. The wafting mist of fresh pretzels, candied nuts, and what I had always thought was the aroma of steaming hot dogs.

“I love that smell,” I exclaimed, as my bud and I walked past a cart full of links and brats.

“What smell,” the bud replied, “the tobacco?”

Snap.

The smell I had always associated with New York, the smell that I loved and that drew a giddy Christmas morning smile on my face, was not, in fact, steaming kosher dogs. But tobacco. Probably with a side of exhaust.

So no. It turns out these East Coast olfactory air waves are not full of hawt dawgs.

But this little plate of low sodium food sure is.

You’re looking at a fresh, home-made hot dog (ok, more like a pork fennel sausage) with a home-made hot dog bun. And of course, some spicy ground mustard on top.

While the bun recipe will be in the cookbook, I’ll tell you a little secret about the hot dog: it was really easy to make.

In a bowl, with my hands, I blended some ground pork with other flavors that I liked – chopped apple, fennel seed, pepper, and paprika. Then, using saran wrap instead of normal sausage casing (as it is usually brined which means too much salt), I made a long row of the sausage mix and then rolled it in the saran wrap, tying off the end. Carefully, I pinched a spot 1/3 of the way down from the top and slowly twisted, making a link. I did this again, another 1/3 of the way down. And then finally, I tied off the other end. Can you picture all of this?

Of course, to cook your gorgeous links, you can’t just throw the saran wrap sausage in a pot. I tried. The plastic melts. Who would have thought.

I tried using a steamer too. Also a bad idea.

So here’s the trick. Put your links in the freezer for 15 minutes right before cooking them. It is just enough time to harden the sausage without it turning into a meat-cicle.

Then, heat up a nonstick skillet on medium-high flame with a little bit of oil. Gently unwrap one of the links and let it plop on the pan, still in its recognizable hot dog form. Let it brown, approximately 5 minutes, and then turn it to the other side. Keep turning and browning the dog until all the meat is cooked, which should take about 15 minutes total.

And there you have it. Hawt dawgs! Low sodium. Without the tobacco smell.

Chow on.

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Filed under improbable eats, recipe box

Always Use a Condiment

One of my favorite questions to ask people is, if they could only have one condiment for the rest of their life, what would it be?

Mine is honey mustard. Obviously.

Luckily, though, there hasn’t been a condiment shortage in the world, quite yet. And thanks to one of my favorite restaurants in town – Frjtz – choices aren’t limited, they are extensive.

I love Frjtz not just because of their perfectly crispy french fries, which they make salt-free. But mainly because of their large menu list of condiments.

They are loaded with salt. But they are also inspriring.

Thai Chili Ketchup. Pesty Mayo. Strawberry Mustard. Smoky Honey Mustard. Spicy Yogurt Peanut. Ginger Orange Mayo. BBQ.

The list goes on and on, capturing any creamy combination that one could possibly imagine. I’m just waiting for chipotle chocolate butter. It’s just a matter of time.

While I’m holding my breath, though, I thought I’d use this endless list as my muse and whip up a few crazy condiments of my own. Low sodium style.

Until recently, it was difficult to find low sodium, salt-free condiments – like ketchup and mustard – at the grocery store. But now, they are starting to make their way on to the shelves. Heinz and Westbrea make some of my favorites.

But why just settle for the classics? That would be silly.

Like at Frjtz, it is easy to create your own creamy combos in just a few minutes, with just a few ingredients. It will not only spice things up in your kitchen, but is also a great exercise in experimentation. Mangos, jicama, cayenne, and yogurt may spell dipping genius. It may also spell disaster. But until you try, you’ll never know.

And along those lines, this morning I took a risk with a somewhat strange combination of flavors and the result was an exciting new topper for a juicy cut of meat.

Reader, meet Balsamic Blueberry Steak Sauce. Balsamic Blueberry Steak Sauce, meet reader.

So this week, I challenge you to come up with a new condiment of your own. And of course, let us know all about it.

My french fries thank you.

Chow on.

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced (i.e. very very fine dice)
  • 1/4 sweet white onion, diced
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon molasses
  • 1 cup washed blueberries
  • pinch brown sugar

In a small sauce pot, heat the olive oil over medium flame. Add the garlic and the onions and saute until soft, 5 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot and stir until combined. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Then reduce heat to low flame and cover the pot with a lid, cooking for 25 minutes.

Take the lid off the pot and with the back of a wooden spoon, pop the blueberries against the side of the pot. Increase flame to medium heat and reduce the sauce for 5-8 more minutes, or until it reaches your desired thickness.

Glop on a juicy piece of steak and enjoy.

Want some extra heat? Add a roasted poblano pepper to the sauce for more of a smoky, spicy BBQ flavor.

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Back to School

Somehow I graduated college.

It was a miracle, really. Not because I was partying so hard that I forgot to go to class. I always remembered to go to class.

It was a miracle because I spent the majority of my Junior year at a different, not often visited part of campus – the Hospital. And even though I shouldn’t have graduated on time, my professors, my classmates, and my parents all made sure that if I wanted to get my diploma with the rest of my friends, than that is what would happen.

I wrote essays while hooked to a dialysis machine. Friends dropped off lecture notes with my nurses. I was even allowed to take an un-timed final in the comfort of my own home, in slippers.

And somehow, I graduated. I wore the cap and gown. I walked into the stadium and I celebrated with everyone else.

The score?

Lupus: 2 Kidneys. Sodium Girl: 1 Bachelor’s degree.

Of course, now, I wish I had milked my medical excuse to take my time and perhaps stay an extra year. I don’t know why the advice to “not rush” doesn’t make sense until you’ve speed through the finish lines.

But luckily, six years later, I get to go back. And I want you to join me.

I’m excited to announce that this April and June, I will be speaking as a part of the Stanford Health Library Lecture Series. I’ll talk about my life with Lupus and how I keep it from disrupting my education, my life, and most importantly, my food. And I’m sure I’ll throw in a few jokes too.

The first lecture will be on Thursday, April 7th at 7pm at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center.

The second will be on Wednesday, June 22nd at 7pm at the Redwood City Public Library.

You can find more information about the series here: http://healthlibrary.stanford.edu/lectures/index.html

And please call 650-498-7826 to register for the event. Oh, and it is free! And oh, oh, for those that don’t live around these parts, the talk will be on the YouTube as well.

So if you or a loved one are just starting to navigate a world without salt – or any new life-changing diagnosis – then I hope you join me for these events. It is a great reminder, especially for me, that  none of us are alone with these challenges. And by pooling together our creativity and positive outlooks, we can find ways to make the most of the less-than-ideal cards we are dealt and to change overwhelming obstacles into a piece of cake.

Or a carrot cupcake.

With that, happy weekend and as always, chow on.

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Look What I Made Wednesday

This is a Taquito tower.

These are two taquitos, spooning side by side.

And this was all that was left after the photo session.

 

Here’s where the story begins: I’m eight. I’m hungry. And all I want to eat is a soft taco filled with spicy meat, crispy shreds of lettuce, cheese, and sour cream.

Fast forward twenty years, and not much has changed. Except I’m taller.

As a Bay Area native, eating Tex Mex was just part of life. Like believing in Santa (even as Jew), learning how to drive, or electing celebrities as Governor.

If there was a birthday to celebrate, you better believe it was happening at Chevy’s (sombrero and freshly made tortillas included). And if you needed a quick snack after school, you were surely grabbing a burrito at Una Mas, that was probably twice the size of your stomach.

This was life. This was food. This was the Californian Tex Mex tradition.

Now that I live in San Francisco, my love for the cuisine has only increased as I am surrounded by even more amazing Mexican restaurants. You really cannot walk half a mile in this city without being blanketed by the spicy smells of chorizo, roasting peppers, or carne asada. Seriously, try it. I’m not complaining.

But alas, like most prepared food, salt is as innate as chili powder and masa. So I’ve had to give up any remnants of my childhood take-out taco fixes. Sure, making low sodium tacos at home is totally easy and always delicious. But there were some menu items, one in particular, that seemed too difficult, too special to recreate, without moving to Mexico and learning from the masters.

Por ejemplo: Taquitos. Just tiny tacos. But oh, so much more.

While on a recent olfactory urban hike, I could no longer deny the cravings of my youth. I wanted my taquitos and I wanted them now. So I grabbed some corn tortillas, ground beef, smoky spices, and I set to work.

As I always try to avoid excessive messes in the kitchen, I wanted to surpass the whole frying process. So I tried baking the little beef rolls in the oven. And it worked, perfectly. To add extra flavor and to imitate the texture of cheese, I also added sauteed shreds of zuke and avocado cream, giving each bite something stringy and luscious to complement the seared beef.

Making my taquito dreams come true was much easier than expected and in the end, they were actually much healthier than the ones that came straight out of the frier or the frozen foods box.

These low sodium tiny tacos had bite. They had spice. They had moments of silky smooth love. And most importantly, they didn’t take long to disappear.

Chow on.

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Zest Friends

You can pick your friends and you can pick your nose. But you can’t pick your friend’s nose. Because that is gross.

Unless that friend is a best friend.

And then, if they ask you to pick their nose – because both of their hands are in a cast or are currently caught in a drain – you’d totally do it. Because that is what best friends are for. They are there in a time of need. They are there to scratch your back (or that itch in your nasal cavity). They are there to brighten your day.

And when it comes to low sodium food, citrus is your best friend.

Just a little juice or zest can instantly light up a plate, much like salt does. Even the most drab dishes suddenly smile with the sweet pucker of lemon or the sassy spring of lime. Orange juice can energize gamier dishes and the most played out BBQ recipes. Blood orange pulled pork, learn about it.

And don’t you dare forget about the other more elusive varieties like kumquats, pomelos, and Buddha’s hand.

Shave it on salads or use it for a Halloween prank – either way, this edible appendage is bound to make your food and life more interesting.

So like the many awesome people you’ve collected throughout your life, be sure to similarly stock up (and fill your fridge) with some exciting citrus. And when you think that a recipe needs extra zing, pass on the salt, and give your zest friend a loving squeeze.

Ready to try?

Check out some of these recipes that use the power of produce to create fantastic flavor.

Orange Moroccan Lamb

 

Risotto Cakes

Ceviche


Chow on.

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Look What I Made Wednesday – Disasters and a Difference Edition

I’m not a baker.

This woman is. It is even in the title of her blog.

But I? No, I’m not a baker.

I’m an experimenter, an adventurer, a thrower-inner. I am an expert low sodium cook.

And when it comes to the exact science of baking, I am short-cuts, I am messy, and I am always surprised that my cookies turn out looking like this.

Let’s just say Monday was a good day to not go sky diving. Because in my little kitchen, it seemed like one disaster was followed quickly by another.

I celebrated like a fool when my bag of white sugar nearly missed spilling on my clean floor (expertly mopped by my generous husband the day before), only to then try and throw in said sugar to the mixing bowl as it was mixing. Which if you are like me, doesn’t seem like it would be a problem at all. But if you are like my friend, the baker, you would know this meant I spent the rest of my afternoon vacuuming and mopping little white sugar crystals from my floor.

So there was that.

And then you get to round two, where the egg whites for my macaroons wouldn’t turn white or get thick. Some recipes said to beat them until they peaked, others said to make them foamy. I just added more sugar. And coconut. Which I had obviously already burned when toasting.

Even with all this against me, I still decided to bake them, thinking, maybe a magic oven fairy would come and save the day. Because isn’t that really how baking works? But alas, flat, super sugary, teeth-pulling macaroons were what awaited me ten minutes later.

So yes, Monday was full of disasters.

But while I was writing this post in my head – cause that is often what I do during the day in my home, which I think is still slightly more sane than talking to myself, slightly – I couldn’t help but think that even with all the scrubbing and cookie losses, this was no disaster at all. Hardly. Not even close.

Haiti was a disaster. New Zealand was a disaster. Japan is a disaster.

Natural, yes, but disasters all the same.

I was pretty mentally paralyzed on Friday and am still having a hard time reading and digesting the news. Even as a Californian who experienced the ’89 quake, the situation in Japan feels so massive, so unfamiliar, so impossible to remedy.

But after my mini food-related disasters on Monday, I’m ready to get out of my mental cloud and put on my apron and help. And I’m going to do that by baking.

I know. Get the dustbuster ready. But I figure that it makes sense to confront an international disaster by confronting some of my own.

And here’s the best part. You all can help too.

(You’re welcome.)

If you are a Bay Area Local, check out Samin Nosrat’s Bake sale for Japan. There are going to be bake sales happening in multiple Bay Area locations on April 2nd, including Marin, the Penninsula, and even Napa. I’ll be at the San Francisco one at Bi-Rite Market selling sweet and savory low sodium treats, so I hope to see you there selling some of your own. She needs volunteers too.

As for non-Bay Area locals, you can still get involved. The Tomato Tart is holding a bake sale online and I’ve also heard of some other folks, who have been so inspired, that they started their own bake sale, like this one in Toronto. So if you are interested in a local event, either get googling or get organizing!

And if you are more into eating for a cause than actually baking, then check out these local SF restos that are offering proceeds to help Japan relief efforts – a wonderful round-up courtesy of my good friend Marcia Gagliardi, The Tablehopper.

So I guess the lesson is that disasters happen. And all you can do is be prepared, be proactive, and get cooking.

Bake on…and many thoughts and wishes to all of those living and with loved ones in Japan.

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Counterfeit Curry

I really liked growing up as a little sister.

As the number two to my big brother’s number one, I was privy to Superman pajama hand-me-downs; slightly broken-in parents (who needed less convincing when it came to eating chocolate cookies for breakfast or going to my first middle school dance); immediate protection against loser boyfriends; and of course, all of big bro’s sage advice. And his good looking friends to swoon over, too.

But there were moments when I cursed the day that I was born second.

Like when my older brother, seemingly sweeter than me, took advantage of my trusting personality. When he played with my absolute adoration of everything he said and did. When he told me that he would give me one million dollars if I ran around the house fifty times. And after I huffed and puffed and completed my half century of laps, he told me – with that older brother grin – that he never said one million dollars, but one million “doll hairs,” and handed me my very own teddy bear as my consolation prize. Which did little consoling in that moment of complete despair.

I thought I had made it rich.

Was I sad? You bet. Did I feel betrayed? Absolutely. Was there a lesson to be learned? Yes. And that lesson is that tricking people is fun. Especially when you don’t have to run around a house.

Let me be completely honest with you – this shrimp curry has no shrimp in it. Not because I don’t like shrimp. And not because I want to make you cry over false promises. I would never do that, like someone else I know.

I used to eat it by the bucket full. But because shrimp now exceeds my limit of sodium per serving, weighing in at 160 mg for 4 shrimp, or 480 mg per 3 ounces according to the USDA nutritional database. This may be fine for most people, but when it comes to the food I eat, shrimp I must skip.

So when I had a Skype cooking date with my blogger friend, Allison Fishman (who’s book is about to be released!), I had to use some of that older brother trickery to get around the salt challenges of our planned recipe: Coconut Curry Shrimp.

Making over this dish was pretty easy. I decided to use some delicate rock fish as the main seafood substitute, which I diced to look like chunks of shrimp. And as for the other ingredients, I didn’t need to do much altering. I recently found some tamarind paste that is quite low in sodium. But at the time of making this meal, I made my own paste by soaking tamarind pods in coconut milk (used later in the recipe) and then grinding them with a mortar and pestle. And to replace the zing of salt, I added fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime at the end.

And there you have it – Counterfeit Coconut Shrimp Curry.

A little lie and a lot of flavor.

Thanks for the lesson, bro.

Chow on.

recipe adapted from Anjum’s New Indian Cookbook

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or coconut oil)
  • 5 cloves
  • 3-inch piece of cinnamon stick
  • 1 medium-large onion, finely chopped
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 7 large cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 4 small tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 green chile, minced
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 2 filets of rockfish, cut into shrimp-sized chunks
  • 2 teaspoons low sodium tamarind paste or 2 teaspoons of tamarind pods soaked in coconut milk for 30 minutes and then muddled into a paste with mortar and pestle

Before you even start, get some rice cooking in a pot or your rice cooker.

Heat the oil in a medium nonstick skillet. Add cloves and cinnamon, and cook until they are fragrant. Add the onion and cook until golden, 8-10 minutes.

Puree the ginger and garlic in a food processor and add to the skillet with a tablespoon of water. Cook over medium-low heat for 2 minutes until the water has evaporated. Add the spices, tomatoes, and green chile. Cook for 15 minutes. Add coconut milk and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes. Add rockfish and cook for 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat.

Put tamarind paste in a small bowl, add 2 tablespoons of curry broth and stir to make a cohesive mixture. Return tamarind broth to the skillet and mix well. Serve over rice and enjoy. And don’t tell anyone there isn’t shrimp in there.


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