As a nutrition professional, I am a vocal fan of sea vegetables. They are highly anti-inflammatory, a good source of omega 3 fatty acids (the type found in fatty fish, which get their omegas by eating sea vegetables!), and offer a nice array of vitamins, minerals, and other healthful compounds.
Except for some offerings at Japanese restaurants (maki rolls with nori, seaweed salads, and miso soup with a few bits of floating seaweed), our exposure to all this great underwater produce is rather limited.
- You can purchase sea vegetables at health food stores, Asian markets, Whole Foods, or through websites like Maine Coast or Eden Foods.
- Keep in mind that you are buying dried sea vegetables, most of which you will then rehydrate at home. Sea vegetables expand quite a bit after being soaked (as much as five times their dried size), and these recipes don’t call for large amounts anyhow. You are getting a lot more food for your money than you may originally think.
- In terms of flavors, arame and wakame are milder, hijiki is somewhere in the middle, while dulse, nori, kelp, and kombu have stronger flavors.
- Please tread carefully with hijiki, as samples have been found to contain inorganic arsenic (which is very concerning from a health standpoint). I recommend consuming it very sparingly, if at all.
And now, let’s talk food!
Sweet Sea Salad
Featured Sea Vegetable: Arame
Yields: 4 servings
1 bunch lacinato kale, de-stemmed and wilted
1/2 cup arame
1/2 cup chopped raw almonds OR 1/2 cup sunflower seeds (buy roasted or, alternatively, toast raw seeds in pan over medium heat for a few minutes)
1/3 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup Zante currants
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
Juice of 1 medium orange, freshly squeezed
1 teaspoon agave/honey/coconut nectar
1. To wilt the kale, place the de-stemmed leaves inside a large bowl. Add anywhere from 2/3 to 3/4 teaspoon of salt. Using your hands, “massage” the salt into the kale while simultaneously tearing the leaves into smaller pieces. The massaging process should last anywhere from a minute and a half to two minutes.
2. In a separate smaller bowl, soak arame for ten minutes, then drain and rinse. NOTE: If you are a “sea vegetable rookie”, I recommend cutting the rehydrated arame strands into smaller pieces (this will help the taste buds acclimate better).
3. Add rehydrated arame and remaining salad ingredients to kale bowl.
4. Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together.
5. Pour dressing over salad. Toss and serve.
Quickie Nori Stir-Fry
Featured Sea Vegetable: Nori
Yields: 4 servings
2 TBSP coconut oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup broccoli florets, chopped
1/2 cup red pepper strips
3/4 cup toasted nori krinkles
1/4 cup frozen sweet kernel corn
1/4 cup shelled edamame
2 teaspoons tamari/soy sauce/shoyu
2 teaspoons sweet chili sauce
1/4 tsp dried ginger
Scallions, chopped (optional, for garnish)
1. Heat coconut oil in large pan over medium-high heat.
2. Add minced garlic; stir often to ensure even cooking and browning.
3. Add broccoli florets and red pepper strips. Stir for one or two minutes, and add a small amount of water (approximately 1 TBSP) to soften.
4. Add nori crinkles, corn, and edamame to pan. Sauté all ingredients.
5. Add soy sauce, chili sauce, and ginger. Stir thoroughly to ensure even coating on all ingredients.
6. Serve stir-fry over quinoa or brown rice. Top with scallions.
Featured Sea Vegetables: Kelp, Dulse
Yields: 4 servings
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
3 TBSP hemp seeds
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/3 cup onion, chopped
1/3 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup tomatoes, diced
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
1.5 tsp kelp powder OR dulse granules (Maine Coast sells both)
1/2 tsp salt or miso
1. Process sunflower seeds in food processor until you get a texture that resembles very coarse flour.
2. Add remaining ingredients and pulse several times until all ingredients are well combined.
3. Scoop “tuna salad” mixture onto salad greens or serve on toasted whole grain bread with a generous layer of Dijon or honey mustard.
Andy Bellatti, MS, RD, is a Seattle-based dietitian who approaches nutrition from a whole-foods, plant-centric framework. He also takes a strong interest in food politics, nutrition policy, and deceptive food industry marketing tactics. He is the creator of the Small Bites blog and can be followed on Twitter.