Tag Archives: love your heart recipe rally

Standing up

Simple Smoky Roasted Chicken

It’s not that I believe there’s one way to roast a chicken; I believe there are thousands, and each has its merits. I love Marcella Hazan’s lemon-stuffed roasted chicken, a) because it’s fun to voodoo all those holes into the lemons, and b) because if it works, and the steam from the lemon juice puffs the chicken’s skin up from the inside, it’s quite a sight to behold. I love spatchcocking because you get to say “spatchcock” for the next 48 hours. But when I roast a chicken at home, I do it one particular way, because it’s quick and easy and because I’m hopelessly in love with the imagery of the chicken world’s version of a total floozy settling in for a snooze in the sun, which is exactly what I think of when I prepare my bird. It’s quirky. It’s silly. It’s a foolproof way to teach newbies which side goes up. And the wing tips never, ever burn.

Here’s how it works: first, you’ll need to imagine your chicken is settling in for a nice long nap at the beach. Never mind that your chicken is well past dead, and that you don’t want sand in your dinner. She’s tanning, okay? Everyone looks better with a tan. Give her a good lather, with olive oil, perhaps, or melted butter, and maybe some spices. Next, make her comfortable. Tuck her wings behind her back. Cross her legs. Take the extra material around her neck off, because no one likes weird tan lines. Now she’s ready to roast.

It might be the easiest way, or it might just be the way I’ve roasted a chicken most often, so it seems the easiest to me. But the real reason I roast chicken like this—the important reason—is because if I had to pick, crisp, salty chicken skin might be my favorite food on the planet. And in my 425-degree oven, this little trick tans the chick.

I’d eat a crunchy chicken skin—almost all of it, if you want the truth—everywhere Sam would eat green eggs and ham, and then some. Only poor Sam, in his seemingly infinite quest, never ate his gourmet treasure standing at the kitchen counter, which is a shame. Any food worth calling a favorite is worth eating standing up. Or, perhaps more accurately, said food should be capable of making one forget to sit down.

But aye, there’s a rub—I’ve always massaged my chickens with at least a half teaspoon of salt. At least. It’s an effective way to get the job done, but for people like me, it may not be the healthiest–1/2 teaspoon is about 1500mg of sodium, which is the upper limit for people who should theoretically be watching their sodium intake. So this week, for Sodium Girl’s 3rd annual Love Your Heart Recipe Rally (my participations in the first two years are here and here), I decided to give my roasted chicken a little makeover.

Recipe Rally Icon

Every year, Jessica Goldman Fuong asks folks to take a normally salty recipe they love—a recipe they can’t imagine changing—and reduce its sodium. It’s certainly a challenge; for most of us, taking salt out of a recipe is akin to taking away our favorite pair of jeans. (How do you get dressed in the morning when you don’t have any pants to put on?) The chicken was a natural choice for me, since the salinity of the skin seemed to be what I relied on for flavor. Oh, and because I’m apparently pickling my kidneys; looking at Jessica’s numbers, I add as much salt to my food daily  as most people are supposed to consume in a day, never mind the sodium even the healthiest foods contain naturally.

I started with Jessica’s recipe for “Beer Butt Chicken” in Sodium Girl’s Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook—a gutsy recipe name, for one thing (be with what is, right?), but the recipe itself is also clever, because Jessica offers a few different spice combinations to round out the classic beer-chicken combo, where you roast the chicken standing up over a can of your favorite brew. I’d planned to use cider instead of beer (hard cider is also naturally low-sodium), but the cider was accidentally, um, consumed too soon. So I did what I’d never have done, say, a month ago: I went about my normal chicken-roasting routine, adding a bit of smokiness in the form of pimenton de la vera and a flavorful depth with cumin, smearing and tucking and tying per usual. But I skipped the salt entirely.

And you know what? That gal came out pretty as ever, puffed and crisp in all the right places. I shared her with friends, and later, when they were long gone, I stood at the counter, chipping the shattery, smoke-infused skin shards off the chicken’s legs, and I didn’t even think of sitting down.

Sure, she’s had work done. And in some ways, I guess it makes her no longer the chicken I always roasted before. But she’s still got her merits, and she’s healthier for me than the last bird I made. And–most importantly–she’s still worth standing up for.

Simple Smoky Roasted Chicken (PDF)
For a low-sodium dish, the numbers on this flavorful roasted chicken are a little high—if you split it between four people, it has about 162mg of sodium per serving, a hair higher than the recommended 140mg per serving for those following a strict low-sodium diet. For the rest of us, it’s just delicious—crisp in all the right places, and flavored with a good smear of ground cumin, smoked Spanish paprika, and dried oregano.

Time: 10 minutes active time
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Equipment: Kitchen string, for tying legs

1 (4- to 5-pound) whole chicken, patted dry with paper towels
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon pimentón de la vera (smoked Spanish paprika)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Remove all chicken innards, trim any excess fat from around the chicken’s neck, and dry the chicken thoroughly with paper towels inside and out. Rub all parts of the chicken with the oil. Place the chicken in a roasting pan or in a cast iron pan. Blend the pimentón, cumin, and oregano together in a small bowl, then sprinkle the entire chicken with the spice mixture. Fold the wings behind the chicken’s back, tie the legs together, and sprinkle any remaining spice on any bare spots.

Roast the chicken for 60 to 75 minutes, or until the breast meat measures 165°F on an instant-read thermometer. If the skin is dark golden brown before the meat is done, slide a baking sheet onto an oven rack above the chicken.

When the chicken is done, let rest 10 minutes, then carve and serve hot.

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Filed under gluten-free, kitchen adventure, Lunch, lupus, recipe

Love your heart (and your kids)

Onion Dip 3

Every year about this time, just before spring, I think about my kidneys. It happens when the days snap back and forth from cold to warm and back to cold again in that spastic Seattle way. I used to make fun of this city for working up a lather about a “cold front” coming, as if it was a hurricane, but now I do it too. Two years ago, I had what I called my own cold front. Out of nowhere, I lost my appetite. After months of doctors, I discovered that my kidneys were failing—all part of having lupus, it seems.

Now, with an eccentric blend of induction therapy (chemo for wimps), steroids, a lovely bouquet of other drugs, acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and a New! Improved! Diet! I’m admittedly still not totally on board with, my kidneys are happy. But every year, when Sodium Girl’s Love Your Heart Recipe Rally rolls around, I remember—with a twang of fear—that those two little organs are fragile, hiding there behind my back.

For someone with stage 4 glomerulonephritis, I had a wicked fast recovery. You’d never know much about the whole shebang, unless you were the one who watched my child and cooked me dinner and took me home from the hospital, drug-woozy, in those first weeks. And now, you can’t tell. The problem is, neither can I.

It’s easy for me to do my kids some general kindness. (Yes, of course they have a nickname.) I don’t drink all that much. I don’t use Advil. I avoid boxing. But when it comes to eating the one thing that has a huge effect on kidney and heart health—sodium—I can’t exactly say I pay attention.

Jess Goldman-Fuong is the exact opposite of me. Well, in some ways. Her name is Jess, and she’s a food writer, and she has lupus, all like me. She lives perpetually in the sun, no matter what the weather is, preferring a persistent upbeat attitude to any of the negativity having a chronic condition sometimes brings. I like to think I aspire to that, also. But she lives in San Francisco, not Seattle. And her kidneys can’t take sodium at all. So rather than glue herself to the 1,500 mg/day sodium intake level the USDA recommends, she skimps, going for about 500 mg/day, when she can. Skipping the salt means she can live a full, healthy life.

Over the years, Jess has garnered a following among sodium-free cooks. At Sodium Girl, she takes the normally salt-laden food she loves—things like crab salad, and bacon-wrapped scallops, and movie popcorn—and reengineers them to fit her diet. The thing is, her food doesn’t taste saltless. It tastes creative. It tastes delicious. So each February, when she issues the call for low-sodium recipes across the web–her Love Your Heart Recipe Rally–I get into the kitchen. For my own sake.

It’s never difficult to find something to desalinate. This year, I was on my neighbor’s couch, devouring French onion dip with potato chips while I pretended to watch the Super Bowl, when I realized I’d consumed four days’ worth of sodium in a single sitting. I’m not joking. Four days.

Back to the stove I went. I caramelized onions over low heat until they were deep golden brown, threatening to burn but really just improbably sweet. I pureed them, then whirled them with crème fraiche, which (contrary to what you might think) has far less salt than sour cream or mayonnaise. The result? A simple, low-sodium dip with every bit as much addictive power as my favorite homemade version. Don’t worry, this dip isn’t actually slimming. It still has the creamy punch you need at the end of your crunch.

So the next time you’re heading for the tube, mix it up. If you’re sitting on your ass in front of the television, at least you’ll be doing your heart and kidneys a little favor.

Onion Dip 4

Chunky Low Sodium Onion Dip
I love a good packaged onion soup dip mix as much as the next person. Maybe it’s the MSG? This version depends on crème fraiche, which is naturally low-sodium, instead of mayonnaise or sour cream, for its creaminess—and because it’s made with deeply caramelized onions, there’s plenty of flavor. Take the time to get the onions good and brown.

Makes: 8 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large yellow onions (about 2 1/2 pounds)
Freshly ground pepper
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (optional)
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) crème fraiche

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the oil, then start slicing the onions, first in half through the root and then into 1/4” slices with the grain, adding to the pot as you go. When all the onions have been added, season them with salt and pepper, stir to blend, and cook for 30 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so while the onions begin to cook down.

Add the garlic (if using), and reduce the heat to your stove’s lowest temperature. Cook the onions for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring frequently, or until the onions are a deep golden brown. (Timing will depend on your stove and the vessel you’re using. The important thing is the color, though, so don’t rush it. If the onions begin to burn or stick to the bottom a bit before they’re done, add a little water to the pan or adjust the heat, as necessary.)

Transfer the caramelized onions to the work bowl of a food processor. Whirl for the count of 10, so the onions are still a bit chunky, then cool for about 15 minutes (or overnight) in the refrigerator. Transfer the onions to a bowl, stir in the crème fraiche, season with pepper, and serve.

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Filed under gluten-free, Lunch, lupus, recipe, snack

Live to Tell

Curried Cumin Crackers 1

There was a time in my youth—maybe six weeks, if I had to approximate, which must have been a very long time for my mother—when I listened to Madonna’s Live to Tell on repeat for hours on end. Hours, people. And oh, goodness, Madonna understood. Clearly the secret I wanted to live to tell wasn’t all that important, because I can remember neither the tale I had to tell nor who needed to hear it. But it was there, with me, suspended heavily in the air like my legs off the floor of back seat of our silver Volvo 840.

The thing is, I do remember putting the emphasis on the telling—not on the living. Today—a few years wiser, maybe, and slightly more experienced with health complications—I wonder sometimes what I’m living to tell.

As more and more of my relatives enter their anecdotage, it becomes clear to me that humans are predisposed to a good yammer. We all live to tell something, and to tell it over and over. The topic varies, though—some people want to talk family history, others want to rehash the past, and still others just want to have a story to tell about every topic that comes up. Telling is remembering. Or it’s proving you’re smarter than someone else, but for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that doesn’t ever apply to me or you.

Back to me, though. What am I doing now that will stay with me? Sometimes it’s hard to know, but once in a while, in a blinding flash of clarity, I know I’m living a moment that will be with me forever. My father teaching my son how to lick an ice cream cone. Walking past the explosion of daffodils each spring on the corner of 1st and 73rd. New England’s ice storm of 1998. Watching my husband stand on the bed, using the cat as a flyswatter against some unwanted bug. Cornering my sister at a family wine dinner, whispering to her that I was pregnant, and watching her get ridiculously drunk downing all her own wine and all of mine as well.

What I do know, very clearly, is that I want something to stick with me. And I want it to stick for a really, really long time.

There’s a point in every person’s life, I suppose, when one recognizes ones own mortality. I think for most youngish adults, the realization comes (if it does come that early) as a result of some sort of trauma—a car crash, maybe, or a bad fall. For me, it came in the form of a very long, very big needle.

Nine months ago, I had a kidney biopsy. I thought it was routine; the doctor intended to get a baseline measurement of how my organs were working, in case of any future complications. The next day, he called me and told me my kidneys were on the verge of failing. Between dinner and breakfast, we decided which chemotherapy treatment I’d try, and the following day, I cancelled a trip to San Diego and headed to the hospital. I’ll be telling that story for a while, I’m sure.

And now? Well, now my kidneys are fine. There’s nothing wrong with them. Nada. Zilch. Problems gone. When I go in for a check-up, my nephrologist (who has purple hair and a nose piercing, how Seattle is that?) is clearly bored. But somehow, on my lower back, right below my ribs, I feel a keen sense of awareness, a constant sense of care that I take with me everywhere. It’s a sense of living, after realizing for the first time that my own life is inevitably limited. And lately—maybe it’s this whole clean eating thing—I’ve been much more aware of taking care of those kids.

Last year, I met a woman whose condition is similar to mine, only sixty thousand times more dramatic. She’s a food writer and blogger. Her name is Jess. She has lupus. (Sound familiar?) She lives in San Francisco, and she’s my lupus superhero.

See, Jess approaches her disease with grace. She accepts that her life has to be different, but doesn’t mope or whine; she exudes an energetic peace that any perfectly healthy person would admire. She practically oozes happy, leaving behind her a wake of hope and cheerfulness that I’m not sure anyone could ignore. Her kidneys are much more sensitive than mine—so sensitive, in fact, that she has to eat entirely sodium-free, to make sure her kidneys stay happy. In her kitchen, she replaces salt with cups and cups of creativity. This month, she’s celebrating National Heart Health Month on her blog, Sodium Girl, by asking bloggers and readers to consider the USDA’s newest dietary guidelines, which (among other things) recommend that Americans cut way back on their salt intake. It’s called the Love Your Heart Recipe Rally. And that recipe up there? Your heart will love it.

But, okay, I really didn’t do it for my heart. I did it because even though my kidneys are healthy now, I want to become more constantly cognizant of what I’m feeding them, so that they last as long as humanly possible. So they live to tell. Naturally, that should mean less salt.

So, I don’t mean to get all serious on you here, but do me a favor: Take a moment. Here. Now. Is there one thing you can do that will make you healthier? It might not necessarily be cutting out salt entirely, and it might not have anything to do with salt. It might mean eating more green vegetables. It might mean drinking red wine instead of hard liquor, because at least wine arguably has a couple health benefits. Or it might mean making a batch of crunchy curried cumin crackers, so you stop snacking on your son’s outrageously salty Goldfish crackers six times a day.

Realistically, I don’t think I can cut out sodium altogether. And I don’t plan on it. But if I can choose one thing today to do differently in my kitchen that pleases the kids, maybe I’ll be able to choose something else next month. Of course, the spirit of the Recipe Rally is to remake a specific salty food, replacing it with a low-sodium alternative. I chose those Goldfish. Readers, I love you. But there is no way in hell you’ll find me cutting anything out in 3/4” fish shapes, especially when I can’t guarantee the correct proportion of swimmers with that special smile. And strike me down for lack of ambition, but I wasn’t sure I could mimic that awesome orange color without a special trip to a chemical plant.

So I made a different cracker. It’s got a base of masa harina, a finely ground corn flour, and ground curry, which gives it the pleasing sunny hue that I associate with mindless snacking, which, in this case, is a good thing. I added an egg, canola oil, and some sodium-free baking powder for body, and stuffed the dough with flavorful seeds that become little grenades between the teeth—things like whole fennel, cumin, and mustard seed. There’s a bit of sugar, which guarantees addiction (let’s work with one vice at a time, please), but there’s no salt added. Half a batch in, I certainly don’t miss it, and I feel a little smug knowing that someday, my kidneys (and, okay fine, my heart) might live to tell me thanks.

I’m sorry, what was that? You have a Madonna song stuck in your head now? You can thank me later.

Click here for a full list of Love Your Heart Recipe Rally posts.

Curried Cumin Crackers after baking

Curried Cumin Crackers (PDF)

Made with whole seeds that burst between your teeth, releasing little time bombs of earthy flavor, these easy-to-make crackers aren’t for spreading or dipping. They’re for eating. For something a little spicy, add a pinch of cayenne pepper. For best flavor, use fresh spices. And you know what? They really taste best the second or third day.

Time: 20 minutes active time
Makes: 4 servings

Spray vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups masa harina
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (white or black)
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoons ground curry powder
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
2 teaspoons baking powder (sodium-free)
1/2 cup canola oil
1 large egg
1/2 cup warm water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12” by 18” baking sheet with vegetable oil, and set aside.

Combine all the dry ingredients in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and blend on low speed until mixed. With the machine running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream, then add the egg, then the warm water. Mix until the dough comes together and there are no dry spots left at the bottom of the bowl. (You may have to add another tablespoon of water.)

Curried Cumin Crackers pre-bake

Scatter the dough out across the prepared baking sheet, and gently pat it evenly into the pan. Using a small rolling pin or a wine bottle (I find the latter works best), roll the dough into an even, thin layer, rolling all the way to the edges. Use a small, sharp knife to score the dough all the way through to the sheet into crackers of any shape, and trim the edges. (You can make squares or triangles, but anything bigger than about 2” in either direction may crack while baking.)

Spray the crackers all over with vegetable oil spray, and bake for 30 minutes, rotating once halfway through, or until the crackers are firm and the edges are light golden brown. Let cool completely on baking sheets, gently break apart, and serve. Store cooled crackers in an airtight container.

Curried Cumin Crackers 3

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Filed under appetizers, recipe, snack, vegetarian