Monday, November 21, 2011

Healing Foods: Mushroom Ragout and Renewed Energy

My salt-free eating plan (not a diet!) has had some very tangible results over the past month. My blood pressure has come down, my energy level has gone way up, and I have lost 7 pounds. I now scour labels to see the sodium content of any food that’s canned, frozen or packaged, and have largely eliminated them as cooking or meal options. Because I am limited to 500 milligrams (1/5 of a teaspoon) of sodium per day, I am motivated to eat foods without dressings, heavy sauces—mainly foods in their cleanest state. Because I can feel such a huge difference in my health and energy level—it has helped keep me motivated to be creative with herbs, spices and flavors without adding salt.

The mushroom ragout recipe, below, is wonderfully versatile. As an appetizer on crostini, served over pasta, risotto or polenta, or as a side to chicken breast or a filet mignon, it is delicious. You can make it with a single mushroom (like button or crimini), or mix several types of mushrooms for a richer, more complex flavor.

Mushroom Ragout

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped chives

12 ounces crimini, shitake, oyster, button or portobello mushrooms (I mix them all for the richest flavor), sliced thin

1/3 cup unsalted chicken broth (Kitchen Basics is my favorite)

1/3 cup dry red wine

2-3 tablespoons whipping cream

1 teaspoon truffle oil (for drizzling)

Saute butter and garlic together. Add sliced mushrooms. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add broth, wine, and continue cooking until the liquid reduces by about half. Add cream and chives, and cook for another minute to combine all flavors. Drizzle with truffle oil and serve with your favorite protein or starch.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Healing Foods: Caramelized Brussels Sprouts and How Much is 500 Milligrams of Salt?

1 teaspoon of table salt is approximately 2400 milligrams of sodium. That teaspoon of salt thrown into boiling water to cook pasta is now almost 5 times my daily allowance of sodium (my cardiologist told me to limit my sodium intake to 500 milligrams a day). So, how does someone not familiar with watching her salt intake learn to live with less than 1/5 of a teaspoon per day?

Stop cooking with it, for starters. That has been going on for a few weeks now, and I have been pleasantly surprised that we can go without it at mealtimes with no complaint. My daughters have been enjoying their sodium-free meals, and eating more vegetables. One of their favorite veggie dishes is caramelized Brussels sprouts.

I grew up with an English mother, and Brussels sprouts, along with mashed carrots and turnips, were staples at our house. We always ate our sprouts steamed, until one year we discovered that if you steamed them lightly and then sautéed them, they were even better. When I learned in a cooking class what caramelized Brussels sprouts tasted like—I was hooked.

Steamed lightly, sautéed in a little butter sprinkled with ½ teaspoon of sugar, the sautéing process gives the sprouts a sweet/savory coating that makes the outside of the sprout a caramel brown color. They are tender, sweet/savory, delicious bites full of goodness. Steaming helps bring out the cholesterol lowering benefits of these healthy cruciferous vegetables, and they are loaded with vitamins K, C, and manganese—and fiber.

Paired with any protein, these are a healthy and delicious accompaniment.

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, stems cut and sprouts cut in half (or quartered, if they are large)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil

½ teaspoon sugar

Pepper to taste

Place Brussels sprouts in a steamer basket over boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain to remove excess water/steam.

In a skillet, heat butter over medium heat until completely melted, and sprinkle sugar over butter. Add sprouts and sauté, stirring gently ever 3-4 minutes for about 15 minutes, until outsides of sprouts become caramelized. Serve immediately.