An Ocean of Health

Make nutritious seaweed a part of your diet with these tasty recipes.


| May/June 2004


Recipes:

If the familiar saying “never judge a book by its cover” holds any merit, then a food’s culinary appeal should never be determined only by appearance or first encounters. After all, there was a time when seaweed was regarded merely as a slimy conglomeration of brown stuff that washed up on sandy beaches. Even the sushi trend of the 1970s, with its classic California roll, didn’t change seaweed’s appeal factor for many of us, let alone its suitability in everyday meals. Since then, the tides have turned and so have the ways in which we can enjoy seaweed. When it comes to using seaweed at home, the plant’s versatility is as wide-ranging as the everyday foods we enjoy.

Seaweed Sensations

Culinary seaweeds — often referred to as sea vegetables — are types of marine algae located in coastal ocean waters all over the world. Although processed seaweeds have long been a little-known part of the American diet as thickeners and stabilizers in such food favorites as yogurt, instant pudding and salad dressing, now they are beginning to be valued as a highly nutritious and delicious natural food that can be used easily in mainstream cuisine.

Some seaweeds are surprisingly appetizing when lightly roasted and crumbled over salads, soups, or casseroles and grain- or vegetable-based dishes — much like croutons or bacon bits. (To make, simply roast in a 300-degree oven for several minutes, or dry-roast in a nonstick skillet over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes.) Other types expand to the diameter of full-size noodles when rehydrated, making them the perfect pick for stir-fry or pasta-type dishes. Seaweed can even be used to top pizzas and season popcorn.

If you don’t live near coastal waters where ocean harvests are common, you can buy dried seaweed in health-food stores, specialty markets or the Asian foods section of larger supermarkets. Dehydrated seaweeds can be reconstituted by soaking in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes. Depending on the recipe, seaweed can be either dry-roasted without soaking or reconstituted during the cooking process, such as in soups and stews.





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