Sunday, July 20, 2008

Healing Foods: Sea Vegetables

"Sea vegetables are a delicacy fit for the most honored guest," wrote Sze Tsu while studying with Confucius in the 6th century B.C. He knew truth when he tasted it. No food can promise health and beauty all by itself, but it is said that Aphrodite, rising out of the foaming sea, owed her supple skin, shiny hair, and sparkling eyes to the plants of the sea.

Leafy and unworldly, swirls of life breeze under the surf along shore lines across the world. Sea veggies are among the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. Their dark cells are genuine power houses of minerals and protein. They are high in potassium, calcium, iron, iodine, and chromium, as well as vitamin K. Nori packs 25 percent more protein than milk, without the fat and calories, and wakame and hijiki are both exceptionally high in calcium.

Sea vegetables are available dried and packaged in Asian markets and natural food stores. Stored in airtight containers, they will keep for up to two years. If spots of white appear, they're salt crystals coming to the surface-simply wipe them away before using. Always rinse the vegetables well (with the exception of sheet nori), and throw the first salty rinse water away, then soak until the vegetables are supple.

Taste and texture vary from sweet, lush, and spicy to nutty, chewy, and briny.

Once you become familiar with the unique qualities of each type, you'll soon want to start experimenting. Sea vegetables invite you to cook beautiful dishes full of complex flavor and nutrition. Add a little sea life to stews and soups, stir-fries, salads, and even sandwiches. It's time to expand your horizons and bring the ocean to your kitchen.

Available in crisp black strings, this veggie really has the taste of the sea. It's high in protein and 100 grams contain 1400 milligrams of calcium. Hijiki swells four times in volume when soaked and is delicious sautéed.


This delicate and lush green leaf is versatile and mild. High in calcium, it's delicious sautéed, or simply soaked and added to a salad.


The most familiar sea vegetable, used to wrap sushi. Nori is high in protein and mild in flavor. It's available dried in rectangular sheets and is usually roasted before use. Unlike other varieties, nori is not rinsed before use.


Softer, milder, and sweeter than hijiki, arame is high in calcium and very versatile. Sauté with vegetables, or add it to a salad or sandwich.


Purple, red, and spicy, this vegetable is rich in iron and protein. Because of the simple harvesting process of picking and drying, dulse often contains debris of small shells. Clean it well before using.


Available as dried strands or sheets. Add to hot water and soak for 15 minutes for a quick soup base, or add to beans to soften them and add flavor.

Sushi Nori Rolls

Photo of Sushi Nori Rolls Making sushi is easier than you might think. Experiment with brown rice or other vegetable combinations. If you have extra veggie strips, by all means, snack!

6 sheets roasted nori
1-1/2 cups medium grain white rice (calrose works well)
2 cups cold water
3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 carrot, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips
Wasabi, pickled ginger, and soy sauce (optional)

1. In a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, combine rice and water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, reduce temperature to low and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 20 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and stir in vinegar. Set aside to cool, stirring occasionally, until rice reaches room temperature.

2. Fill a small bowl with cool water for moistening fingers to aid in working with the sticky rice. On a bamboo sushi mat or a flat surface, lay 1 nori sheet with longer edge closest to you. Spread 3/4 cup rice evenly over the nori, allowing 1/2-inch margin on longer edges. Place 3 or 4 strips of desired vegetables at the closest edge of the rice and press lightly. Carefully roll the sushi away from yourself, jelly roll fashion, using firm and even pressure. (The rolls must be fairly tight.) Repeat, assembling the remaining ingredients into rolls.

3. Cut each roll into 8 pieces and serve with wasabi, pickled ginger, and soy sauce, if desired.

Makes 6 rolls.

V PER ROLL: 106 CAL (0 PERCENT FROM FAT), 2g PROT, 0g FAT, 24g CARB, 183mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 1g FIBER

Diced Salad with Dulse

Photo of Diced Salad With Dulse Delicate dulce should be rinsed, but doesn't need soaking.

1 cup dried dulse, rinsed and coarsely chopped
1 cup grated carrot
1 small green bell pepper, diced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 small apple, diced
1/2 cup watercress or chopped fresh spinach
2 tablespoons roasted walnuts
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon tahini

In a large bowl, combine dulse, carrot, bell peppers, apple, watercress, and walnuts. In a small bowl, mix together lemon juice, soy sauce, and tahini. Pour dressing over salad and toss.

Makes 6 servings.

V PER SERVING: 68 CAL (32 PERCENT FROM FAT), 3g PROT, 2g FAT, 10g CARB, 602mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 4.4g FIBER

Miso Soup With Arame, Ginger & Green Onions

If you're in a hurry, skip infusing the broth with shiitake and just use hot water. Add the miso at the very end and heat gently-boiling makes miso bitter. When making a soup, there's no need to soak the sea vegetable.

4 cups water
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 cup thinly sliced carrot
1 cup dried arame, washed
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
5 tablespoons miso, dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water
Soy sauce to taste
4 scallions, sliced

1. In a medium soup pot, bring water to a boil, turn off heat, add mushrooms, and let stand for 15 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft and water is infused with flavor. Remove mushrooms, slice, and return to pot.

2. Over medium heat, bring broth to a slow boil, add carrots, arame, and ginger, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until carrots are tender. Add miso/water mixture, and simmer 2 minutes. Season to taste with soy sauce and sprinkle with scallions.

Makes 4 servings.

V PER SERVING: 95 CAL (15 PERCENT FROM FAT), 4g PROT, 2g FAT, 18g CARB, 972mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 6.7g FIBER

Sweet & Sour Wakame Condiment

Serve with avocados, tomatoes, or crisp vegetables such as cucumber, cauliflower, and fennel.

1/2 cup dried wakame
1 cup water
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon mirin or white wine

1. In a medium bowl, rinse wakame. Discard rinse water, cover with fresh water, soak for 15 minutes, and drain. Trim and discard any hard membranes and mince remaining wakame.

2. In a small saucepan over high heat, bring 1 cup water to a boil and add wakame. Bring mixture back to a boil, drain, and combine with remaining ingredients. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Makes 6 servings.


Hijiki Rainbow Salad

Fresh sweet corn and tomatoes combined with salty hijiki-this salad tastes like summer at the beach.

1/2 cup dried hijiki
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup cooked corn
1 cup cooked peas
1 small red onion, sliced in thin half moons
1/2 cup diced firm tofu
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon mustard
Pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh borage flowers (optional)

1. In a medium bowl, rinse hijiki. Discard rinse water, cover with fresh water, soak for 15 minutes, drain, and slice.

2. In a large salad bowl, combine tomatoes, corn, peas, onion, tofu, and hijiki. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, sesame oil, lemon juice, and mustard. Dress and toss salad, and season with pepper. Garnish with borage flowers, if desired.

Makes 6 servings.


Wakame, Spinach, & Tofu

Serve over brown rice and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

1/2 cup dried wakame
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 cup diced firm tofu
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 pound fresh spinach, washed and coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons ginger juice, (obtained by squeezing fresh grated ginger root through a cheesecloth)
1 teaspoon miso paste dissolved in 1 tablespoon warm water

1. In a medium bowl, rinse wakame. Discard rinse water, cover with fresh water, soak for 15 minutes, and drain. Trim and discard any hard membranes and chop remaining wakame.

2. In a large skillet over medium high heat, saute garlic and tofu in oil for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add spinach, wakame, ginger juice, and miso. Cook, stirring constantly, until spinach is just wilted, about 5 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

V 163 CAL (37 PERCENT FROM FAT), 14g PROT, 7g FAT, 15g CARB, 597mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 8g FIBER

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