I haven’t had the physical/mental/emotional energy to follow any recipes this week. Just the thought of using a measuring spoon/cup feels overwhelming as we come to the end of this crazy year. So I’ve been making a lot of pan fried noodles with vegetables because they’re virtually sodium free (if you choose the right vegetables) and don’t require a recipe or a lot of ingredients to make them tasty. Here‘s how to make a tasty, low sodium noodle dish that doesn’t require any weighing or measuring, and uses just a few ingredients:
1 pound of noodles
3-4 bunches of scallions
3-4 cloves of garlic
about half a head of cabbage (or your choice of vegetable)
oil for cooking
Optional: 1 pound beef (or protein of choice)
1) Choose a low sodium noodle, fresh if possible, and pan fry it for more flavor. Cook noodles according to the package and make sure they are nice and dry. One pound will make about 4 servings. Next, heat a nonstick pan with a thin layer of canola, vegetable, or peanut oil and add the noodles when the pan is nice and hot. Don't overcrowd the pan and don’t stir the noodles around too much. Give them a chance to get a little crispy for a few (3-4) minutes, toss them in the pan and let them sit for another 3-4 minutes so they’re evenly fried all around. Set the noodles aside in a large bowl.
I recently got this Phillips noodle maker and so far I love it for making fresh, salt free noodles. It’s a bit of a splurge but worth it if you’re going to be on a low sodium diet for awhile and you just don’t want to spend the time making fresh noodles by hand, which is so time consuming.
2) Add pan fried scallions. Pan fried scallions (aka green onions) make an ordinary noodle dish amazing, and they’re so easy to make. Just cut up scallions in about 2 inch pieces and cook in a skillet over medium-high heat with a thin layer of oil until they’re a little burnt (5-7 minutes). Don’t add too much oil, just enough to coat your pan, or the scallions won’t get crispy. Don’t stir too frequently, and don’t overcrowd the pan for the same reason. Cook one layer of scallions at a time. If you’re making a pound of noodles, use 3-4 bunches of scallions because they cook down a lot. Add the fried scallions to the bowl of noodles.
3) Add a seasonal, low sodium vegetable with garlic. Right now, cabbage is my vegetable of choice. It’s in season, easy to buy, has a long shelf life, and easy to cut and cook. When buying cabbage, choose one that’s firm and heavy. To cook cabbage, slice it in about 1/2 inch pieces. Lightly oil a nonstick pan and cook over medium-high heat without stirring too frequently or overcrowding the pan so you get a nice sear for more flavor. Then, just before you’re ready to take it out of the pan, add 3-4 cloves of finely minced or pressed garlic and stir it into the cabbage for about 30 seconds. Adding the garlic at the end of the cooking time rather than the beginning gives it so much more flavor. As long as the garlic is minced very fine or pressed, it shouldn’t taste raw. Toss the cabbage with the noodles and scallions.
Stop here and you’ll have a delicious, very low sodium meal you can top with a little sesame oil, chili oil, vinegar, or other low sodium sauce. Or add another vegetable for more color/flavor/texture. As with everything else, cook it separately and don’t overcrowd the pan for a nice char. Red or orange bell peppers, red onions, and snow peas work well.
You can easily add a protein as well! Beef goes really well with cabbage so that’s what we’ve been doing. The noodles and vegetables have very little sodium so we count that as a “free food.” That’s something we can eat without having to even think about the sodium content. So when I make a meat to go with these noodles, I always leave it separate so we can easily control the sodium. I use a chuck steak cut into thin strips, stir fry in small batches on high heat with just oil so I get a nice sear, and don’t add any other seasonings. It’s simple but delicious.
I know this isn’t a real recipe, but sometimes I just don’t want to deal with a real recipe so something like this gives me just enough direction that I can sort of wing it and still have a hot, low sodium meal on the table without too much fuss.