recipes and tips for better living

Monday, September 28, 2009

They're Creepy & They're Kooky, Mysterious & Spooky, They're All Together Ooky: Edible Sea Veggies

Okay, so they're not so might even be able to pass them off as worms for a Halloween scare. They look like something in the kitchen of the Addams Family or the Munsters, but with the look of those families' skin, i'm quite sure they weren't eating their skin nourishing sea veggies! Even to this day (and i eat a fair amount of seaweed), the black ones (especially the hijiki and arame) weird me out. They do look wormy indeed, but when you learn how to prepare them correctly, the taste is so good and they offer us a wealth of mineral bang for our buck. Seaweed is loaded with Vitamins A, B, C, and K and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, iodine, and iron. Additionally sea veggies are about 10-20% protein. There are many choices when it comes to sea eating. Most of you are already familiar with:

NORI - the green (when toasted) or sometimes purple- black (when raw) seaweed that encases our spicy tuna and california rolls.

there is also...

KELP which is light to dark green and DULSE which is reddish-brown. Both of these you can find in shakers and are great substitutes for salt and for additional flavor in dishes. Since they provide electrolytes a teaspoon of DULSE is an easy and healthy addition to any green smoothie.

HIJIKI (one of my faves) is black and wiry looking. It contains alginate (alginic acid) which helps release and transport heavy metals out of the body, and lignans, which have been shown to reduce cancer risk. It also has the highest calcium content of all the sea veggies; ounce for ounce it has more calcium than milk. Hijiki is said to contain the highest amount of arsenic* of all the sea veggies, so buy from a reliable source and look for certified organic hijiki. It is known to have a stronger flavor than say,

ARAME, which looks similar to hijiki but is a bit milder and naturally sweeter in flavor.

KOMBU is dark and mostly sold in strips. It's most often used to flavor soups.

WAKAME, like kombu, is often found in miso soup.

Many of the sea veggies (such as arame and hijiki) are sold in dried form, which means you need to soak them for 10 or 15 minutes. Soak them in purified water, as it drinks the water and grows to be at least triple the size it starts. Drain the soaking water and optionally rinse and drain again. From there cook following the directions on the package - hijiki and arame need to be cooked slow for about 35 minutes. Adding sweet vegetables such as carrot, onion, and corn will help make the flavor sweeter and more satisfying. (SEE RECIPE BELOW). Season with sea salt near the end of cooking. (While sea veggies do contain some naturally occurring sodium, the salty flavor is often not present with cooking. Seasoning with a bit of salt at the end of cooking hijiki and arame can bring out more flavor)

Remember, like all things, everything in moderation. While a bowl of seaweed is a mineral rich way to have lunch, as little as few tablespoons or even a 1/2 cup of your prepared sea veggies can be a great addition to salads, soups, and rice & grain dishes. A little seaweed can go a long way nutritionally, so don't feel like you need to eat an entire bag!

Some other great qualities about sea veggies:

they help to detoxify the body tissues
they help to strengthen the intestines
sea veggies purify our blood
the calcium supports our bone growth, helping to prevent osteoporosis
they can help aid in weight loss and can ease menopausal symptoms
seaweed nourishes hair, skin, and nails, and have been said to be the reason Japanese have lustrous locks.
seaweed also has tons of iron, so consider adding some other veggies to the dish that are high in Vitamin C, which works synergistically with iron to help the body absorb this mineral.

*There has been a great deal of controversy over the topic of heavy metals in sea veggies. While these amazing veggies act as a sponge in their native waters to absorb abundant amounts of minerals which makes them so superbly nutrient dense, they also will absorb some of the less desirable contaminants such as heavy metals that get polluted into our oceans (arsenic, lead, cadmium). All types of sea veggies seem to contain at least trace amounts of arsenic, hijiki being the most problematic. Wakame, on the other hand, has shown to have very little after the soaking process, approximately 43 micrograms per half ounce of wakame. I still consider sea veggies to be one of the healthiest foods available. To avoid this toxicity risk, purchase your sea veggies from an organic supplier.

Hijiki (or Arame) Basic Salad:

you'll need a small (1.75 or 2 ounce) bag of hijiki or arame
1 large non stick pan
1 tbsp coconut oil
at least 2 more cups of purified water
2-3 large carrots
1/2 large OR 1 small yellow sweet onion
sea salt to taste
(this recipe will use the entire bag, you will have leftovers or plenty to share. Of course there is always the option to half the recipe)

This dish can be eaten alone as a side dish, or added to grain dishes. It's wonderful if you add a little to brown rice and top with toasted sesame seeds and additional flakes or small strips of nori.

Preparing Your Weeds:

Pour Hijiki (or Arame) into a glass container and cover completely with purified water. Let rehydrate for approx 15 min.
Meanwhile, chop up the carrots and onion. Put coconut oil in a nonstick skillet over high heat, add the onions and carrots. As oil gets absorbed add water to pan to continue to steam fry your veggies.
Lower heat to medium
Drain the hijiki, optionally rinsing and draining again. Add hijiki to the pan of veggies.
Cover with approximately a cup of purified water. The hijiki will continue to drink the water, and much of the water will evaporate. Keep a little water in the pan the entire time as it cooks (approximately 35 minutes).
Towards the end of cooking stop adding water so that the remaining water evaporates or gets absorbed by the hijiki.
During the final moments season to taste with sea salt.

SEA...It's that easy! Taste before you season, and taste again after you may not want to stop tasting!! It really is a delicious and easily adaptable salad that you can eat alone or keep in the fridge to add to salads or grain dishes.

Enjoy and explore your new found love for these amazing ocean plants!


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