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Menu Challenge: Dinner Guest Who Can't Eat Salt

  • p

My husband has recently re-connected with some older friends of his family and we're having them over for dinner this week-end. One of the guests was quite ill some time back and now can't eat any salt. Another guest is allergic to seafood and mushrooms, though those are easy to work around. While this group (8 in total) isn't entirely a "meat and 'taters" crowd, they do lean more in that direction. Whatever I end up cooking, I want to ultimately be able to season everyone else's with salt and then leave one portion unsalted (and also make the unsalted portion as flavourful as possible, with fresh herbs, lemon zest, maybe a salt substitute, etc.). I had originally been thinking of a standing rib roast or maybe a bbq'd leg of lamb but I don't know that either would taste as good if the salt was added (for those that could have it) after it was cooked. I'm a bit stumped on this one and would greatly appreciate your wise and chowish suggestions. Many thanks.

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  1. What about a rack of lamb? Before you roast it, you can cut off a portion to prepare without salt, and season the rest with your usual condiments. Then put everything to roast in the oven at the same time. To enhance the flavour, when you are done roasting with the lamb, slice each individual piece, give each a yoghurt coating, and then encrust it in some herbed breadcrumbs (mix of Japanese panko breadcrumbs preferred, mixed herbs, chopped garlic) that is already toasted in the oven.

    1. Can the no-salt person eat cheese? It doees have salt in it of course, but it might be a way around the issue if it is okay. You could make a creamy potato gratin to accompany the meat. You could also grill individual tenderloin steaks and hold the salt on one or nice thick pork chops etc. Think individual portions instead of a big single piece of meat.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Candy

        I have a no-salt person in my family, and he can't eat (salted) cheese.

        1. re: KB

          Cheese is usually high in sodium.
          My mother is on a salt restricted diet and I do not cook with salt, but do use other herbs.
          Check the American Heart Assoc. they may have some recipes or a cookbook you could use for more info.

          Remember the other guests could always use the shaker at the table to salt their own food.

      2. I favor Candy's idea of chops or steaks that can be cooked (and seasoned) individually.

        But you need to get a little more info on the "no salt" thing. If the person is eating ultra-low sodium, any salt (like the salt in cheese) would be verboten whether you add it or it's added in the manufacturing process. Also, check into whether pork (naturally higher in sodium than beef, IIRC) is permissable.

        Also, do check before using a salt substitute. Not everyone is permitted to use them by their doctors.

        One last thought: Exercise caution about "making the unsalted portion as flavorful as possible with fresh herbs, lemon zest . . . " If this individual is used to low salt food, s/he's probably used to a more bland "affect" than you are. You might ask about his/her preferences. Many "meat & potatoes" folks don't like "fancy" seasonings.

        1. I would consider making Marcella Hazan's Chicken with Two Lemons but use oil and herbs under the skin instead of the salt. The lemons will provide a lovely, salt-free juice to ladle over the meat of the salt-free guest (and others who may like it); you could also make a classic sauce for the rest of the guests who would might want something more than that.

          1. you may want to inquire a bit more as to the nature of why they can't eat salt. if it is a kidney ailment of some kind.. they could also be sensitive to too much potassium, etc. also.. if it is a heart/cholesterol issue.. they may also need to avoid saturated fat.

            i agree with the garlic, herbs, lemon idea... these can go a long way towards livening up an otherwise less flavorful (salt free) dish. we use a lot of salt free rubs too... like tandoor seasonings on chicken... and adding a little heat to things makes you not miss the salt so much. make sure to check labels and ingredients lists.. once you start looking, you'll be surprised at how many ingredients are totally salt laden.

            good luck.. I'm sure your guests will appreciate your efforts.

            1. I have nod idea if pork has more naturally occuring salt, but I can tell you that I know for sure that Hormel brand is loaded with a sodium solution, as would be any pork that claims to be 'self basting', although I am not sure of specific other brands. I would ask the butcher what is most natural and untreated if you decide to go with pork. The grocery store brand is usually untreated, at least around here.


              1. How about baked chicken with olive oil, mixed lemon and orange juice, and garlic? Serve with a pilaf made with vegies and low-sodium chicken broth.

                1. p
                  peppermint pate

                  Thanks for all of the suggestions. A few comments in response...I had thought about grilling steaks/chops but I think that feels a little less special for this dinner. Also, I confirmed that the guest is on a no-sodium diet (technically, 500-800 mg a day, so practically zero - poor guy) so no cheese, mustard, soy, etc. Potassium and fat are fine - woohoo!. He doesn't really like the flavour of salt-substitutes and has gotten accustomed to blander foods, though also likes citrus and spice accents.

                  So...I really like Sally Doodah's idea of a rack of lamb as well as Marcella's 2-lemon chicken (I had been eyeing that recipe since it was posted anyway). Maybe I'll hedge my bets by making one of those and a side of salmon, in case someone doesn't like one or the other. For sides, I'm thinking a rice or quinoa pilaf and some roast squash & beans may go nicely.

                  Thanks for kick-starting my brain on this one. If I've said it once, I've said it a million times...
                  L-O-V-E this board!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: peppermint pate

                    For your sides, since you mentioned quinoa, a salt-free idea:

                    Slowly saute onions (in unsalted butter or oil) until caramelized, add a splash of brandy/cognac, flame it (okay, you don't have to, but playing with fire is fun,) add several tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice, add to cooked quinoa. Add lemon zest and more lemon juice to taste. (I usually use most of the juice of a lemon, all told.)

                    1. re: --susan
                      peppermint pate

                      Thanks Susan. Sounds tasty. I'm going to use your recipe and use my new Meyer lemons that I finally tried for the first time (hadn't even heard of them before Chowhound). My regular quinoa recipe calls for lemongrass, chile peppers and keffir lime leaf with a bit of coconut milk. Also, I recently started toasting my quinoa in a dry pan before cooking it - if you don't already do that, I highly recommend it.

                  2. Let them all eat salt freee for a night and totally enjoy it.

                    I suggest you start the dinner with several large artichokes steamed with tarragon and placed communal style near the diners instead of one each. Offer three dipping sauces, (1) butter (2) tarragon vinagrette and (3) no-salt garlic aioli **. That way, they dinner starts off where the no-salter can eat everything offered and it just might relieve him/her of feeling "apart" or a bother. Everybody eats the same thing. And, it's a little work to eat, so the body's signal of feeling full before they are even done.
                    **Makes: 1 cup
                    I N G R E D I E N T S
                    4 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
                    2 egg yolks
                    1 cup virgin olive oil
                    1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
                    1/2 teaspoon cold water
                    1 teaspoon lemon juice

                    Then, let them clean up with pots of lemon water or individual warm finger towels (washcloths tied with a ribbon or twine?)

                    Then, offer roasted vegetables that have been seasoned just with olive oil and garlic. Others can add their salt if they want, but it's really not necessary. These include peppers, asparagus, onions, yams or sweet potatoes, and more. Let their natural flavors shine.

                    Offer no-salt sweet and sour cauliflower, broccoli, and pineapple (fresh).

                    Offer up a London Broil AND some chicken breasts. If you can grill them, all the better as it adds some flavor.

                    For dessert, maybe make a Drambuie granite and serve with galia melon (or cantelope and honeydew mix) or a fruit sorbet with fresh berries. Whip cream with a touch of cinnamon warms it up a little and give a little immitation of ice cream.

                    If it still too cold for a granite, you can make baked apples or poached pears without salt and they are still very good. Serve with spicy whipped cream. And, maybe a pour of Drambuie.

                    GRANITE WITH DRAMBUIE (serve with Galia Melon)

                    serves 6 (generously)

                    1 cup water
                    1 cup sugar
                    1 bottle Drambuie
                    Juice of 1 orange
                    Juice of 1 lemon
                    6 fresh mint leaves

                    In a medium saucepan, boil water and sugar. Stir to dissolve. Transfer to a bowl. Cool. Add Drambuie and juices. Pour into a shallow dish. Place in the freezer compartment. When mixture starts to set, stir with a spoon every 15 minutes until it is iced. Fill cold wine glasses with the granite. Decorate with mint leaves.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: kc girl

                      Oooh that reminds me of a roasted red bell pepper aioli I had with steamed and chilled atichokes a few years ago.
                      Put into the work bowl of your food processor, 4 peeled garlic cloves, 1 roasted, peeled and seeded red bell pepper a cup of Hellman's, white pepper to taste and a pincy of cayenne. Process until smooth and well blended. It will keep for 5 days in the refigerator. serve chilled with the steamed and chilled artichoke. We had them as a first course and each diner got half an artichoke.

                      A local supermarket chain has had artichokes on sale for .99 each. I bought 2 more yesterday, i think I know what is on tomorrow night's menu.

                      1. re: kc girl
                        peppermint pate

                        Hey kc girl, thanks for the many suggestions. You reminded me of a great dinner I once had at a friend of a friend's house in New York. She had this drop-dead stunning apartment filled to the rafters with art and antiques, the perfect setting for her elegant dinner gathering that started with steamed artichokes dipped in melted butter and lemon. Sooo good. Not sure about making them for this crowd but I'm definitely going to make them sometime soon.

                        Love your dessert suggestions but alas, the "no salt" guest doesn't touch alcohol. Whipped cream and berries, and maybe some roasted fruit, would be perfect. I appreciate you being conscious of the guest not feeling "apart". I'm planning to plate all of the meals in the kitchen so as to not draw any attention to the fact that he's eating somewhat different food than the rest of us. Thanks again.