Cooking with Sea Vegetables
By Christina Pasternak More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the FOOD-A-MINS Blog Series
We now know how incredibly nutrient-dense sea vegetables are, containing more vitamins and minerals ounce for ounce than any other food on earth. Though Asian cultures, especially the Japanese, have been eating and enjoying the health benefits of seaweed for centuries, the idea of incorporating algae into the standard American diet is unappealing to most.
The good news is that seaweed does not need to be eaten in large quantities to experience its benefits. A typical serving is about 1 tablespoon of kelp or dulse granules, a sheet of nori, and about 1/4 cup of hijiki, kombu, purple laver, or wakame. One serving per day is all we need.
Dried seaweed can be purchased at most health food stores. Always ensure the product is certified organic. I like Maine Coast Sea Vegetables or Eden Organic brands. Once opened, dried seaweed can be stored in airtight containers in a cool, dry place for several years. Some require soaking in water before use in recipes.
When I first started throwing seaweed into my morning green smoothies, people thought I was disgusting. Though I really didn’t mind it at all, the truth behind blending seaweed into my smoothies was that I was afraid to eat it any other way! Seafood was never part of my diet, even in my meat-eating days, mostly because I couldn’t stand the fishy smell and flavor. When I began learning about the endless nutritional benefits of seaweed, though, I reluctantly began researching recipes. Surprisingly, I have found several delicious ways to include this superfood in my diet, even for a seaweed 'fraidy cat like me.
One of the easiest ways to start using seaweed is to blend it into a smoothie. I found that the best trick is to make sure there’s always fresh lemon juice in the smoothie to counterbalance that salty ocean flavor. Arame, dulse, kelp, and hijiki are all good choices. Arame is particularly mild and has a slightly sweet taste, while dulse and kelp have more of that distinct marine flavor. Dulse and kelp come in granulated powders, which are convenient because you can just scoop out a tablespoon and toss it in the blender with the other ingredients. I especially like sea vegetables in smoothies with a sweeter fruit, such as a banana or some fresh pineapple. Experiment to find out what your favorite combinations are.
Quick and Easy Sushi Bowls
I don’t know about you, but making sushi rolls is not my thing. I just don't have the patience for such a methodical process, and, since I’m a perfectionist to a fault, I’ve determined that my sushi rolls will never look as good as an expert’s, so I’m leaving that up to them. We can’t be good at everything!
Sushi bowls are an excellent way to get all the delicious flavor of traditional sushi rolls without all the work (and exasperation). Nori is the seaweed of choice here, just like you would find at your favorite sushi spot.
Add Kombu and Wakame to Soups
Kombu and wakame are commonly used in soups and are excellent when paired with other flavors. Not only that, the sea vegetables’ minerals can be infused in the broth for added nutrition and a richly-flavored soup.
Sea Vegetables in Dessert?!
Agar-agar is not only the best option when introducing people to sea vegetables, but it’s also incredibly versatile due to having no flavor or smell. Agar-agar can be used as a vegetarian replacement for gelatin, making it a healthy addition to desserts.
Haas, E.M. (2006). Staying healthy with nutrition: The complete guide to diet and nutritional medicine. New York: Random House, Inc.
Wood, R. (2010). The new whole foods encyclopedia. New York, NY: Penguin Books, Inc.