Monday, January 25, 2010

a gift from the sea

Torrey Pines Beach, La Jolla, CA (no, I'm not there now)
Arame- It sounds like the name of a mythological Greek goddess. This humble little seaweed otherwise known as sea vegetable or "edible ocean plant" is one of many truly delicious options for a well rounded vegetarian diet (or any diet for that matter). I first encountered Sea Vegetables (they have a little bit of a PR problem being called seaweed, not appetizing I guess, so the name has been dignified as a full fledged vege- NOT A WEED!), when I went to culinary school. The teacher, Melanie Ferreira, extolled the benefits of a daily diet of sea vegetables and used herself as a living example of all its virtues. I had to admit at the time that Melanie looked like the picture of health, a mother of several boys she had glowing skin and shiny shiny hair. I have had a lifelong obsession with all things oceanic and had no qualms exploring the sea VEGETABLE world with Chef Melanie's guidance. 
I know what you are thinking- seaweed, that stuff that gets washed up on the beach and is only good to mulch your garden with (yes it is!)
This is a beach on Anna Marie Island, Florida.

Arame can be found in any health food store. It is purchased dry and quickly revives after being soaked in water. The Eden Foods site describes arame thus:
The most mild tasting of all sea vegetables, hand harvested in the wild, shredded, cooked, and naturally air dried. Versatile, quick cooking and easy to prepare. Rich in dietary fiber, low calorie, low sodium, and a good source of vitamin A, calcium, and magnesium. Great in salads and sautéed vegetable dishes.
This is dried arame straight out of the package (or you can buy it loose in bulk at Integral Yoga Natural Foods, my FAVORITE health food store)

Easy to like, easy to cook and good for you. Arame, you goddess you! I love to add her (!) to stir-fried rice and miso soups. She gets along well with other vegetables and brings some drama with her deep black color. The first sea vege recipe I learned was a stir-fry with julienned carrots. It came to mind today because I still have some sesame paste on hand and that will be a perfect compliment to this dish. AND Amanda happened to mention to me that she is currently exploring sea vegetable recipes.  Is there really a wine to pair with it?
Remember Home Cooks- you don't have to get too obsessed with your julienne cuts. The idea is to get everything roughly the same size so they cook at the same rate. 
A julienne cut gives you lots of surface area so everything cooks QUICKLY!

Arame and Carrot Stir-Fry

1 Tbs. Canola oil
2 cups of Carrots, cut into a julienne
1 cup of Arame, soaked in water for 15 minutes
3 scallions minced
1 tsp. Soy Sauce
2 tsp. Sesame oil
1 Tbs. Sesame Paste- see recipe below
Heat the oil in a wok and when it is hot and beginning to ripple add the carrots and quickly stir-fry for 3-5 minutes till they begin to soften and turn a little golden and slightly crispy. Drain the arame from the soaking liquid and add it to the carrots in the wok along with the scallions. Stir-fry for another 2 minutes, add the soy sauce, the sesame oil and the sesame paste. Heat through for another minute and serve.
serves 2-4

Sesame Paste-Toast 6 Tbs. sesame seeds in a dry pan for 2-3 minutes till they slightly change color. Put in a spice grinder and grind into a  powder. Put this powder into a food processor and add 1/2 cup more sesame seeds1/4 cup soy sauce and 2 Tbs. sugar. Process into a paste. The paste will store well in the fridge for several weeks.

When I discover a new, exciting author, I tend to stick with that author for awhile, reading everything he/she has written. And so it is when I discover a new food. Though I can't say I've really just discovered seaweed - I've been eating it since the '70's in sushi and salads. I did however just discover cooking with it. I am now obsessed and must cook every recipe I can get my hands on! Thanks Deb, for one that sounds easy and delicious! And very healthy!

I made a salad from Arame a few days ago and loved it! It was from Mark Bittman's new book, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (which, by the way, is superb!) It was very basic and delicious. Similar to Deb's but without the carrots. Tonight, I will try it Deb's way. (Deb - any advice on how to make the sesame paste without a spice grinder? Not sure if I have time to get to Chef's Central today!)

I also tried Wakame the other day. Opened the bag and it was EXTREMELY salty, so I didn't do much with it. One of the recommendations on the bag was to roast it and eat it crispy, like chips. So I tried it. Still couldn't deal with the salt. Oh well.

As I always mention, I think about the sauce when pairing veggies with wine. However, I am going to make an exception on this one. I will consider both the seasonings and the arame flavors. I love the smell and flavors of the ocean, which one can capture in seaweed. This is what I smell and taste when I eat sea vegetables. Wines that come to mind are ones that pair well with all of the creatures of the sea like mussels, clams, shrimp, etc. I want something white, minerally, and crisp which will pair perfectly with all sorts of seafood. If it pairs will with raw oysters and clams, I see no reason why it shouldn't be a great match for seaweed!

Pinot Blanc from Alsace is my first pick. In Alsace, this is a staple when it comes to pairing wine with shellfish. (As is Muscadet from the Loire which would also make a beautiful accompaniment to Deb's salad). One of my favorite whites during the warmer weather is a blend of Sylvaner and Pinot Blanc - the Dopff & Irion Crustaces.  (Sylvaner is a white varietal grown primarily in Alsace and Germany). A perfect match for all things "Ocean"! The fresh, clean flavors of the wine will be terrific along side this sea vegetable salad! Seaweed salads themselves are light and crisp, so definitely look for a wine with similar characteristics. Sometimes, when pairing wine and food, contrasting flavors and textures works beautifully. However, in this situation, match a lighter style wine to this dish!


  1. re: wakame- try soaking it in water for awhile to remove the salt
    re: sesame paste- you can crush to toasted seeds with a mortar and pestle, or use a clean coffee grinder. Otherwise, just throw everything into the food processor and you will get a close result.

  2. Love seaweed recipes. Too many people are unfamiliar with cooking it. Hope to see more!

  3. Looks so spicy! Thanks for such delicious recipe.
    So gald to have found this recipe. Keep posting!


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