Sea vegetables


During the hot summer months there is the tendency to consume lighter fare and with fresh fruits and vegetables in season, well, why not? In order to eat a balanced diet we need to consume a wide variety of foods and sea vegetables are a superb option. They can be used in entrees, soups, salads and even desserts.

Many sea vegetables have a powdery dust (sea salt) on the surface which may be wiped off with a cloth to reduce the salt. However, most sea vegetables need to be soaked in water, then drained before use. This soaking process may lower the sodium content by as much 80%. Nori sheets are one sea vegetable that must not be soaked. Doing so would dissolve the sheets which are ready to use without soaking or cooking. Dulse may be snacked on in it's dry, unsoaked form or soaked and chopped for use in a recipe.

Wakame: Cosely related to kombu, this sea vegetable is harvested primarily in the northern seas of Japan where it thrives in about 20 to 30 feet of water. About two thirds of Japan's 150,000-ton wakame crop is cultivated on about 19,000 sea farms. It grows quickly with minimum weeding and is ready to harvest by mid-winter. At that time it is cut, rinsed and sun-dried. Wakame is delicious in soups, salads and entrees.

Arame: This sea vegetable has a sweeter taste due to a sugar alcohol that it contains and doesn't need to be cooked. I have soaked it in room temperature water and used it on salads or added it to cooked vegetables or grain loaves. On the other hand I have cooked it with carrots and onions then served it with sesame seeds as a condiment. In general, I cook it separate, which only takes a few minutes, then add it to the other ingredients in a dish since the black color can permeate another food giving it an off-color.

Kombu: Besides being high in mineral content this common sea vegetable is often used as a flavor enhancer as it contains glutamic acid, a natural form of sodium glutamate. Consequently, it is great to use when preparing vegetable soup stock, and may be eaten in the soup (or another dish) by removing the cooked kombu, slicing or dicing it, then adding it back along with the seasonings. The easiest method is to soak the kombu in water for 10 to 20 minutes, then slice or dice and add to the soup in the beginning so it cooks thoroughly. When cooking dry beans it is wise to add a 4-inch stick of kombu to the cooking water, for the reasons stated above, but also as it makes the beans more digestible and thus less gas-producing. Again, the cooked kombu may be diced and returned to the bean dish for added nutrition. However, if the beans are to be used for a salad it looks better it the kombu is removed after cooking and added to another dish, since it can muddy the colors.

Agar-agar: This natural sea vegetable gelatin comes in three forms --powder, flakes and bars. Powdered agar is more concentrated and dissolves very quickly. To gel 1 quart of liquid use only 1 tablespoon of powder versus 1/3 cup of the flakes or 1-1/3 bars. The flakes and bars are basically the same in that they both need to be cooked 10 to 15 minutes to completely dissolve. Never cook agars of any kind in a liquid with oil. The oil seems to coat the agar which prevents it from absorbing the liquid. What this means is the agar is added to the water and allowed to dissolve before the oils or oil-containing ingredients are added. What is nice about agar is that it sets up at room temperature. Also is a lot more nutritious than regular gelatin, which is made from animal hooves and bones.

Hijiki: Similar to arame in appearance, this brown algae grows deeper in the ocean and therefore has a stronger flavor. For that reason I generally cook it longer and add tamari and ginger, mirin and/ or rice vinegar to lighten up the flavor. It is a wonderful vegetable but best for those who are used to eating sea vegetables. Start a newcomer out on arame or a fruity agar gelatin and tell them that they have just eaten a sea vegetable AFTER they have eaten it.

Nori: Available in either dried fronds or square sheets, lightly toast by fanning about 6 inches above a medium flame at a moderate pace to prevent burning a hold through it. When it turns from dark red to green the sheets are ready to be used for a nori roll, sushi, or cut into small pieces for use as a condiment or garnish.

Eden Foods, Inc. located in Clinton, Michigan and Quantum, of Eugene Oregon have a wide variety of sea vegetables. Their lines are available in most natural foods stores across the country. See box for a few of the nutritional stats on sea vegetables. Notice the amount of calcium and iron in Hiziki and the amount of vitamin A and Protein in Nori and you can see why sea vegetables should become a part of everyone's diet.

Here a few recipes featuring sea vegetables in a very diverse way to show how creatively they can be used.

Yield: 2 cups soup Preparation time: 15 minutes

This was the last soup that I developed for the book. The idea came to me and I wanted a special cold soup that would be simple and extraordinary. This was the result. I delighted in the subtle cucumber kiwi flavors with the gentleness of the white miso as a carrier.

1 medium cucumber, peeled
1/ cup diced and reserved
2/ cup diced and blended
1 kiwi, peeled
3/4 cup plain soy milk
1 Tablespoon rice syrup
2 Tablespoons white miso
2 Tablespoons instant chopped
wakame (reconstituted)
1 Tablespoon fresh
parsley, chopped

Peel the cucumber, cut it in half horizontally, remove the seeds and dice the cucumber. Except for the wakame and the 1/2 cup diced cucumber, blend the remaining ingredients until they are smooth. Remove from the blender and add the diced cucumbers and wakame. Serve cold with fresh parsley.

Yield: 3 1/2 cups Preparation time: 25 minutes

1/2 lb. extra firm tofu
(1 cup diced)
1 piece of kombu
(1/2 cup, soaked and diced)
1/2 cup red pepper, diced
1 cup carrots, roll cut
1 cup onions, diced
1/2 cup daikon, cut in 1/2" thick
half moon pieces
4 cups water
4 teaspoons fresh ginger,
4 teaspoons Fresh garlic,
minced or 2 teaspoons garlic powder
10 Tablespoons mirin (sold in
Japanese stores or
natural foods stores), or a
sweet sherry wine
1/4 cup tamari
1/4 cup arrowroot, dissolved in
1/2 cup cool water

Soak the kombu for about 5 minutes or until it is soft. Dice into square pieces. After washing, peeling and cutting the vegetables, put all of the ingredients into a 2 quart pot with the liquid ingredients and bring it to a simmer. Cook the ingredients until the vegetables are soft (about 20 minutes). Add the tofu for the last 5 minutes of cooking the vegetables. SPECIAL NOTE: Use a firm tofu in this dish to ensure that it doesn't fall apart. Also, use a wooden spoon so that it doesn't tear the food apart when stirring it. Turn the flame off when the vegetables are cooked. Add the dissolved arrowroot to the stew and mix in immediately. Turn the fire back on and stir constantly until the mixture has thickened. Serve 1 1/4 cups of soup over 3/4 cup rice pilaf.

Yield: 3 1/2 cups Preparation time: 15 to 20 minutes

This is a mild flavored jello and semi-sweet. For a sweeter version simply double the rice syrup. It is good as dessert or to cleanse the palate between courses. It can be used on a cake as for a jello cake or as a salad as is or in combination with fresh fruits.

1 quart watermelon, seeds
removed, pureed
1/4 cup agar agar flakes
(*)1/2 cup rice syrup
1/2 lemon, juiced

Put all of the ingredients into a 2 quart sauce pot and cook on a medium heat for about ten minutes or until the agar is dissolved. Pour into desired mold and cool. Serve chilled.

Remember that agar-agar, unlike gelatin, sets at room temperature so there is no worry about the jello breaking unless it is sitting in the Florida sun in mid-July.

(*) I used Lundberg rice syrup because it is very mild in flavor thus complementing the delicate flavor of the melon. Honey, maple syrup or any strong flavored sweetener would over-power the melon and is why I don't use it.

Yield: 4 servings Time: 30 minutes; allow 1 hour to soak the hijiki beforehand

1/2 cup dried hijiki
1 tablespoon tamari
1/2 cup halved and sliced onions
1 tablespoon finely
chopped garlic
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh green beans
2 tablespoons grated ginger (or
1 tablepsoon ginger juice or
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger powder)

Soak the hijiki in 3 cups of water for about 1 hour. Then wash it carefully to remove any sand, and place it in a saucepan with the tamari and a few cups of water. Cook at medium heat until the water has nearly evaporated.

Meanwhile, saute the onions and garlic in oil, along with the salt, for about 4 minutes. Cut the tips from the green beans and add them to the sauteed onions. Cook until the beans are tender-crisp. Then add the hijiki and ginger and mix well. Continue cooking for another minute or so, and serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings Time: 25 to 30 minutes

1 cup dried arame
1 cup water
5 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons shoyu
1 cup halved, sliced onions
2 tablespoons roosted sesame oil
2 cups broccoli florets, steamed
and cooled in ice water leaf

When this salad is made it should be eaten immediately because the vinegar will cause the broccoli to turn gray-green. This salad is a macrobiotic dish.

Mix the arame in the water, bring to a simmer over medium heat, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the vinegar and shoyu, and mix well.

Saute the onions in the oil over medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add them to the arame mixture. Set aside to cool. Drain the broccoli and add it to the arame mixture. Arrange the salad on a bed of fresh leaf lettuce. Serve the salad cold.

Calcium Iron Vit. A

Arame 1,170 mg. 12 mg. 50 I.U.
Hiziki 1,400 mg. 29 mg. 150 I.U.
Wakame 1,300 mg. 13 mg. 140 I.U.
Kombu 800 mg. -- 430 I.U.
Nori 260 mg. 12 mg. 11,000 I.U.
Dulse 567 mg. 6.3 mg. --
Agar Agar 400 mg. 5 mg. --

Niacin Vit. C Protein

Arame 2.6 mg. 0 7.5 gr.
Hiziki 4.0 mg. 0 5.6 gr.
Wakame 10.0 mg. 15 mg. 12.7 gr.
Kombu 1.8 mg. 11 mg. 7.3 gr.
Nori 10.0 mg. 20 mg. 35.6 gr.
Dulse -- -- --
Agar Agar -- -- 2.3 gr.



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