Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tale of Three Vegetables - Eggplant, Squash, & Cabbage

A couple of days ago I went into cooking marathon mode. I made some cracked wheat bread, pizza dough, and three vegetable dishes: Eggplant Bake, Summer Squash Casserole, and Braised Sweet & Sour Red Cabbage. The eggplant and squash were purchased from my local farmers market and the red cabbage came from the local grocery store. I made the tomato sauce for the eggplant and pizza from my home-grown tomatoes & basil.

Quick Homemade Fresh Tomato Sauce
I washed, halved, and seeded a pile of tomatoes and set them to cooking over a medium-high heat. I didn’t bother peeling them. As they cooked, they released a lot of liquid, so I took the pot cover off to let the tomatoes cook down. Eventually they began to thicken, and, at that time, I added some extra virgin olive oil, about three large handfuls of coarsely chopped fresh basil, and four minced garlic cloves. I also tossed in a sprinkle of red pepper flakes. I used tongs to remove some of the skins. Once the mixture had cooked down and reduced, I used my hand held blender to break up any tomato clumps and puree the remaining skins. The resulting salt-free sauce is perfect for pasta, pizza, and eggplant.

Eggplant Bake
The eggplants I picked were small and firm, so I just peeled them and grilled them on my George Foreman grill. Then I layered the grilled eggplant slices with my tomato sauce and some chopped fresh mozzarella cheese. Fresh mozzarella is much lower in sodium than the regular stuff. I usually buy Bel Gioioso brand; it has only 85 mg. sodium per 1 oz. serving. I ended up with two layers of eggplant and one layer of cheese. Then I topped everything off with some homemade breadcrumbs tossed with olive oil, minced garlic, and a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese.

Squash Casserole
I wanted to try a low sodium version of a squash casserole I’d seen on many web sites. It contains squash, cream of mushroom soup, cheese, and stuffing mix. I had noticed last week that my local grocery store was now carrying the truly low sodium version of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. In the past, if I wanted to use canned cream of mushroom soup, I’d pick Campbell’s Healthy Request with 470 mg. per ½ cup serving. But the ready-to-serve Low Sodium Cream of Mushroom Soup has only 45 mg. for the entire 10.5 oz. can. Before I’d only been able to get it online. Be forewarned, though. Without all the excess salt, the soup is pretty bland. So I livened things up a bit by adding a squirt of Worcestershire sauce.

Most of the squash casserole recipes I looked at called for boiling the squash and onions together until the vegetables were tender. Then draining, mashing, and finally combining with the soup. I decided to just saute the cubed squash with onions in some unsalted butter. I added some sliced mushrooms I had on hand too. Once the vegetables were almost tender, I added the soup and let everything cook over a medium-low heat until the vegetables were completely cooked (but not mushy). I plopped the squash mixture into a casserole dish and topped it with three ounces of shredded cheese – a mixture of extra sharp cheddar and naturally low sodium Swiss. Instead of stuffing mix, I combined some homemade breadcrumbs with melted butter and hefty pinches of thyme and savory and sprinkled the mixture over the casserole.

Sweet & Sour Braised Cabbage
Finally, I followed the red cabbage recipe I wrote about earlier. It was the perfect accompaniment to the other creamy and cheesy vegetable dishes. I baked the two casseroles while the cabbage was simmering on the stove top. The great thing about this vegetable trio is that it made a tasty vegetarian dinner and the leftovers have been great for quick, no-fuss lunches.


Sarah T. said...

Jimmy thinks too many vegetables give him a tummy ache.

shambo said...

Maybe the cabbage, poor dear. But the other vegetables are creamy & cheesy with crispy & buttery bread crumbs. How can that be bad?

Nora said...

A quick question for you. In what store did you find the Campbells Cream of Mushroom soup(the 60 mg sodium version)? I live in the SF Bay Area and think that I might have some of the same stores that you have. Thank you for the very useful blog.

shambo said...

Nora, I found the low sodium version of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup in my local Raley's. I don't know if Raley's has made any forays into the Bay Area. And, of course, I didn't find it in the soup section nor in the health food section. It was in a weird little section at the beginning of one of the aisles that features unusual packaged foods. I'm not even sure if I could find it again quickly.

One note, however, without all that salt, it's a pretty bland tasting product. So you need to spiff it up with some onion, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, etc. to make it tastier. And it's read-to-serve, so it has a thinner consistency than the condensed versions. Good luck finding it.

smjm67 said...

I am new to no-low sodium cooking. My question is regarding Minors chicken base. 110mg sodium per serving seems high to me. Husband is on 2000mg or less a day.

shambo said...

I understand your concern. But the reality is that very few truly low sodium prepared chicken broth alternatives exist. Grocery store Swanson's lower sodium chicken broth is a whopping 510 mgs. for just one cup. Imagine and Pacific brands have a lot less, just about 70 mgs. per cup. But the flavor is kind of murky and they're pretty expensive. Usually you can only find them in the natural foods section of your grocer or a health food store.

Herb-Ox has a dry chicken broth granule product that is sodium free but the taste is very artificial. Kitchen basics has come out with unsalted chicken broth. It's salt free but still contains 150 mgs. sodium per cup. That's because chicken all by itself contains naturally existing sodium. Trader Joe's has a wonderful liquid product that's supposed to be low sodium. But it comes in at about 360 mgs. per cup.

So considering cost, the convenience of having an easy product to work with, and its sodium content, I like working with Minor's. I make my own chicken broth from time to time, but I really like being able to use the Minor's concentrate. I've had a pint container in my fridge for nearly two years now and am just getting ready to order some more.

Please refer to some older blog entries about the subject of chicken broth products: