Saturday, March 26, 2011

Under the Sea…Guide to Underwater Veggies

Goodness knows, I love a seaweed salad as much as the next girl, but beyond that chewy, sweet and sour goodness, I’ve started using various sea vegetables to create things like Caesar salad dressing and mock-tuna salad. The first time I started looking for nori sheets I was amazed by this world of dried “plants,” that seemed very exotic. The truth is, our Canadian neighbors as well as the Irish and northern Europeans use sea vegetables in many dishes.

Besides giving a little salty and sea-taste to dishes, sea vegetables are a source of sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and other trace minerals found in the ocean. Once found only at specialty stores, I’ve had no difficulty finding most of these vegetables in the Asian section of my Whole Foods and Dominick’s groceries.

Here are three of my current favorites, but there are many more to check out.

Dulse – this is a red seaweed, sold dried (my experience), in plastic packages. It has a great smoky, salty flavor, and is great crumbled on top of soups or salads.

Fingerling Potatoes with DulseRecipe courtesy of The Conscious Cook, by Tal Ronnen.

12 fingerling potatoes, cleaned and dried
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon vegan mayonnaise
2 tablespoons regular cashew cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Earth Balance vegan margarine
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 or 2 small pieces dulse
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the potatoes on a baking sheet coated with spray oil and bake for 20 minutes, or until tender. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the horseradish, mayonnaise, cashew cream, and salt and pepper to taste.

Heat the oil in a small nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the dulse and cook, turning once or twice, until crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Watch closely so that it doesn’t burn. Remove the dulse to paper towels, let cool, then break into small pieces.

Cut the cooked potatoes in half lengthwise. Being careful not to burn your fingers, scoop the pulp from each potato with a teaspoon, leaving a thin shell. Place the potato pulp in the bowl with the horseradish mixture and the Earth Balance. Mash together, then fill each potato half with the mixture, mounding slightly. Put the potato halves filling side up on the baking sheet.

Sprinkle the potatoes with paprika, return to the oven, and bake for 10 more minutes. Garnish with the chives and crisped dulse.
Makes 24 pieces; 12 servings of fingerling potatoes as a vegetarian and vegan appetizer.

Kombu – (or dried kelp) the lovely dark green or aubergine color of this vegetable would be lovely as a garnish, but the flavor is a great add to soups, stews and sauces. Like the dulse, kombu typically comes dried, but can be soaked to rehydrate for cooking.

Caesar Salad Dressing

3/4 cup cashews, divided
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tbs white wine vinegar
1 cup water
1 tbs miso
1 tbs dijon mustard
1 cloves garlic
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs kombu, chopped (about 1 folded strip)
1/4 cup kalamata olives, very finely minced

Combine 1/2 cup cashew nuts with the lemon juice and vinegar in a blender and blend to a cream. Add the water, miso, dijon mustard, garlic and olive oil and blend thoroughly. Add the kombu to a spice grinder (or coffee grinder) and grind as best you can. Then add the remining 1/4 cup of cashews and grind to a powder. Add to the blender and blend to combine. Then add the minced olives and pulse, just to combine. Pour into containers and refrigerate. It will thicken as it cools. Makes about 2 cups.

Wakame – This gray-green vegetable can be eaten raw or be soaked and cooked. But, be ready as wakame expands several times after you soak it. Most seaweed salads include soaked wakame. It's wonderful and has a pleasant, chewy feel. I love it!

Wakame with Brown Rice

2 1/4 cups water
1 cup brown rice
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 tablespoon dried wakame seaweed flakes
2 cups water
1 ripe avocado, diced
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

Bring water, brown rice, and salt to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until tender, 45 to 50 minutes. Soak wakame in 2 cups of water for 5 minutes; drain in a mesh strainer. Scoop rice into a bowl, and gently fold in wakame, avocado, and sesame seeds. Serve warm or cold with a little rice vinegar and/or Thai chili sauce.

Last, but not least, I found Kelp Noodles, and they had this great recipe for a simple salad. Check it out for more ideas.


Kelp Noodles
Honey Mustard Dressing (or, I used a ready-made ginger dressing)
Cucumbers, sliced
Carrots, sliced
Apples, thinly sliced
(I added some left-over purple cabbage and bok choy)
Salt, to taste

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Salt to taste.