I am delighted to welcome Jessica Goldman of Sodium Girl to The Kitchn today. Jess has an unusual mission for a young writer: Make eating sodium-free food sexy, fun, and delicious. Jess has a type of lupus that requires her to eat a very low-sodium diet, but she has turned this challenge into a quest for flavor without salt — and she has done it so well that it earned her a book deal. Look for her book on fresh, flavorful sodium-free eating next fall. Here she shares with us three low-sodium appetizers that are fantastic for summer entertaining.
Here’s the scene: You’ve spent the day prepping for a little get together (okay, what’s bound to be the hottest party of the summer). You haven’t left one detail unchecked. You’ve procured the wine, built a tremendous cheese platter, and constructed impressive apps full of smoked fish, sea salts, and creamy sauces. Even Ina and Martha would be impressed. But with thirty minutes before the gang arrives, you suddenly receive a call that throws all the hors d’oeuvres and garnish into the air. Sodium S.O.S.!
Turns out one of your guests is on a strict low-sodium diet. And while Uncle So-and-So or good pal Sal are both more than happy to sip on sparkling water, you are determined to not let a little grain of salt get in anyone’s way of having a good time.
With limited time and pantry products, though, you need a sodium-free SOS and a way to whip up salt-free snacks that will stand up to your other trays of goodies. You need dishes with zip and pizzazz. You need some cool, no-cook bites that will make your diet-restricted friends feel special, and not different.
So instead of calling off the shindig – remember, hottest party of the year! – check out these three low-sodium appetizers that use very simple ingredients, a little bit of spice, and creativity to wow the palates of every guest.
Dill and Curry Popcorn
Drenched in butter and salt, your typical bag of popped kernels is neither a low-sodium meal nor something you’d want to serve your friends at a formal occasion. Can you imagine the stains on your couch? But if you swap the butter for some good olive oil and the salt for other aggressive herbs and spices, you suddenly have a quick hand-snack that keeps the mood classy and your guests impressed.
Directions: Pop a bag of salt-free popcorn in the microwave. So far so good. Then place the popcorn puffs into a medium mixing bowl and allow them to cool. Drizzle 1 to 2 teaspoons of good olive oil over the kernels, mixing it in with your hands or a wooden spoon. And finally, pour another 1 to 2 tablespoons of your choice of spice or herb mixture into the bowl, again, mixing with your hands or a wooden spoon until well distributed. My personal favorite flavor combinations are salt-free garlic powder and dried dill or a cumin, curry, and smoked paprika sprinkle.
Serve different flavors in separate bowls and make sure to have some cocktail napkins on stand-by, just in case those oily fingers end up near that couch.
Nectarine, Coriander Seed, and Avocado Salsa
This snack is a no-brainer for any picnic, brunch, or potluck. Everyone loves a good salsa. But it’s been done before. So to give it an element of surprise (so no one notices the lack of salt), add some juicy nectarines and little pops of whole coriander seed. These simple additions give this traditional treat a pretty sexy new look and taste. And if you want to serve it for more elegant occasions - and avoid double dipping - simply spoon a small amount onto individual salt-free rice crackers or even dried plantain chips.
Directions: Simply dice the tomato, nectarine, jicama (or cucumber), and avocado into small 1/4 by 1/4-inch cubes. Finely chop the green onion, the whole thing (excluding bulb). And mince the jalapeno, discarding the stem and seeds. Then, toast the teaspoon of whole coriander seeds in a frying pan over medium heat until they start to give off an aroma, about 2 to 3 minutes. And finally, mix all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and serve, mashing the avocado a bit if you want it to have more of a guacamole texture.
Making stellar salt-free French fries is pretty easy – a few sliced spuds, maybe a bit of pepper, and some time in the oven. But when you have last minute additions to your menu and guest list, you need something that takes only seconds to prepare. That’s where no-cook jicama fries come to the rescue. They are crisp and fresh and when you coat them in some olive oil and herbs, you can offer guests a homey snack with an innovative twist.
Directions: Cut jicama into long French fry-like sticks. Then in a medium bowl, mix 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil with 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon white pepper, 1/4 teaspoon chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon dried herbs like dill, tarragon, parsley, or all of the above. Add the jicama sticks to the bowl and toss with your hands until well coated. Serve on a plate or standing upright in a glass.
Sodium Girl: Adventures in a Sodium-Free Life
(Images: Jessica Goldman)