Low-sodium diet tips

Here are edited excerpts from a recent online chat.

Recipes whose names are capitalized can be found in our Recipe Finder at washingtonpost.com/recipes.

Q. I'm on a low-sodium diet. Pasta recipes almost invariably say to add salt to the water in which you boil your pasta. Even if the water is eventually drained and not consumed, the salt that's added to it must raise the sodium content of the final dish, right? So boiling the pasta without adding salt is better for me, correct?

A. According to an analysis by Cook's Illustrated, the pasta does absorb salt during the cooking process. The magazine prefers the following ratio when cooking pasta: one tablespoon of table salt to four quarts of cooking water per pound of pasta.

One tablespoon of salt, of course, is more sodium than anyone needs on a daily basis. Even chefs, who love the stuff. It's nearly 7,000 milligrams of sodium.

But when cooked in this salty water, the pasta absorbs only a fraction of the sodium, approximately 1/4 teaspoon per pound of pasta. That equates to 575 milligrams of sodium per pound.

I assume you don't eat a full pound of spaghetti per meal, so you can divide that 575 milligrams by the amount of pasta you do eat. If you wolf down a quarter-pound of pasta, you'd be getting about 144 milligrams of salt per serving.

Or you could not salt the pasta water. But the pasta won't taste as good!

- Tim Carman

Q. My husband took me out for lunch. We had a fabulous salad of greens, asparagus, haricots verts, radishes, fennel and raw chickpeas. Where would one find raw chickpeas?

A. Fresh green chickpeas are available in season and frozen at some Mediterranean markets and sometimes at places like Mom's Organic Market.

Before you head out, call around. (I see they are sold at Costco in Canada! Not helpful, but interesting, eh?)

- Bonnie S. Benwick

Q. My fiance's birthday is coming up, and as a non-cook, he asked only for me to cook him a meal. Do you have any meal ideas for a guy who loves steak and pork and potatoes and other good side dishes? Also, any tips for a non-cook on cooking steak?

And one last request: a delicious, moist, homemade double-layer chocolate cake with chocolate frosting? There was a cake I made back in the day for my brother, but it was from a magazine, and I cannot find the recipe clipping anywhere.

A. How about steak rolled up and looking all fancy? The meat cooks relatively quickly in those recipes, which to me makes them less intimidating.

If you don't have one, invest in an instant-read meat thermometer; it'll let you know exactly when the meat is done, so you don't have to worry about over- (or under-) cooking those steaks.

And now, some main course suggestions for your dinner: Skirt Steak Pinwheels; Stuffed Flat Iron Pinwheels; Rolled Beef and Asparagus. For sides: Green Beans, Roasted Pepper and Potato Salad; Braised Potatoes With Bay Leaves and Garlic. And for the cake: Duke's Chocolate Cake.

-Kara Elder

Q. I just bought chia seeds for the first time and was wondering whether you have any favorite recipes for them. Would love some creative ideas.

A. How about Saffron Chia Pudding With Mango and Cashews?

- Becky Krystal