I don't want to tell you the title of the cookbook I'm reviewing this week just yet. Stick with me on this one. It's pretty specialized (no, it's not a caveman diet book). This is a cookbook geared toward a very specific audience, but I have found it utterly charming, inspiring, informative, and fun to read. How's that saying go, "Just because you aren't thirsty, doesn't mean you can't hang out at the water cooler." OK - I just made that up. What I'm trying to say is, there are lessons to be learned from the struggles of others. You may be able to eat anything you want, but perhaps there is other behavior you'd like to change. Change is hard, but if your health is on the line, you don't have a choice. This is what happened to Jessica Goldman Foung, aka Sodium Girl. Faced with a lupus diagnosis and spiraling towards renal failure, Goldman Foung had to make some serious changes.
Goldman Foung sees the proverbial glass as half full. When she had to cut sodium from her diet, she applied what she calls "The little black dress theory." She compares cutting sodium out of your diet to being told you can no longer wear black clothing. Instead of thinking about what she can't eat, Goldman Foung focuses on what she can eat. Salt is the little black dress, and where it was once her go-to for adding flavor to foods, she has now replaced it with vinegars, wine reductions, molasses marinades, citrus dressings, browned (unsalted) butter, and spices such as cumin, curry, fennel seed, and mustard. In Sodium Girl's Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook, the foods that can be made salt-free and delicious, are seemingly limitless.
In the book's introduction, there is a lot of information about reading labels, understanding where sodium is snuck into ingredients, finding confidence in the kitchen, and adjusting your mindset from can't to can. This section of the book is fun reading - Goldman Foung is a funny and charming storyteller - and while it is geared towards people that must reduce their sodium intake, there is inspiration for anyone trying to reduce anything in their cooking - gluten, fat, meat, starch. Goldman Foung's mantra of "living a limitless life," is an inspiration to all.
There are chapters for breakfast, appetizers, sauces and dips, salads, soups, meat, poulty, noodles and grains, and seafood. With the exception of some seafood, most ingredients in the recipes are naturally low-sodium. Goldman Foung has recipes for replacing flavor boosts like soy sauce and fish sauce with her "umami sauce," a mixture of water, rice vinegar, molasses, dark brown sugar, and garlic powder, and "umami broth," a combination of dried shiitake mushrooms, fresh ginger, star anise, cloves, and water. Recipe headnotes include stories about how Goldman Foung wanted to eat a sodium-laden favorite, and how she approached reducing the sodium. Each recipe includes a sodium count, and if possible, ideas for variations and ingredient substitutions.
Goldman Foung was able to create buffalo wings by replacing prepared hot sauce with her own combination of roasted hot peppers, red wine vinegar, beer, tomato puree, and spices such as garlic powder and onion powder. It's not can't, it's can. Can't have bacon-wrapped scallops? No problem. How about spice-rubbed zucchini ribbons wrapped around halibut? Oyster Po' Boys? Follow the notes in the sidebar and seek out lower sodium wild East coast oysters or pacific oysters. With Goldman Foung's approach to cooking, I think any reader would be inspired to redefine what they can't eat and instead focus on what they can.
Meet Jessica Goldman Foung at Book Larder on Thursday, February 28 for a free book signing and samples from the book from 6:30 to 8 p.m.