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It s’easy. (HIJIKI AVOCADO SALAD)

July 20, 2009

hijiki_salad
We have lots of enthusiasm for seaweed when wolfing down sushi rolls or slurping miso soup but most people don’t give it much thought outside of a Japanese food context. Too bad! Since it is such an easy product to incorporate into a meal, packed with major health benefits, and there are both overt and covert ways of working with it for those who lack said enthusiasm. Sea vegetables are known to stabilize blood sugar, alkalize the blood and help your body to eliminate heavy metals: led, mercury and aluminum which are toxins from the environment, otherwise tough to get rid of. They also cleanse the lymphatic system which is responsible for the health of all the other systems. Uh-oh, I feel a ‘superfood’ rant coming on… luckily superfoods are one of my favorite things to rant about, especially when this easy aaaaand good for you to eat. Need I say delicious too?

Harvested in many parts of the world, so long as the waters are clean, sea vegetables are an age-old food not only in Asian traditions but in most sea-accessible parts of the world like Scandinavia, the UK, coasts of Australia, New Zealand and South America. In the US, seaweed is hand gathered from the cold, dark waters off the northern east and west coasts. Canada too. Unless you are at one of these sources, you will be very likely to purchase edible seaweed in dried form. It is widely available in health food stores, Asian markets and those really expensive bodegas-turned-gourmet shops in certain parts of Brooklyn… however convenient. Since it is dried, the shelf life is indefinite, which is great because you can keep a package of seaweed as a pantry item and use it when you wish. Varieties such as wakame, kombu, hijiki and arame need only to be rinsed and rehydrated in hot water and they grow like sea monkeys, up to three times the original volume (vegetarian sea monkeys). Others are eaten without rehydration and remain sort of crunchy like nori and dulse.

To subtly incorporate seaweed in a meal, start by adding a two inch piece of kombu to a pot of cooking water for beans, pasta, rice or grains. The nutrients in the seaweed which include vitamins A, B, C, E, and minerals like potassium, protein, fiber and calcium will fortify the water and the good water will be absorbed by the food in the pot. At the end, you can chop and eat the kombu or simply consider your duty done and remove it from the pot and toss it. Carrageen and agar are both sea products that are used as gelatin would be in helping both sweet and savory dishes to thicken and set. Great for panna cotta, puddings, glazes and the like, no one the wiser.

There are better tasting and textured seaweeds for eating straight, try a small handful of wakame or arame in a soup. Thinly sliced nori makes a lovely garnish on salads or soups as well. If you want a large helping, follow the recipe below for a briny hijiki salad coupled with smooth, silky avocado. The key is to marinate overnight in a great vinaigrette with a few crunchy carrots to round it out and sweeten the deal.

HIJIKI AVOCADO SALAD

1/2 cup dried hijiki seaweed
boiling water

1 tablespoon shallot, finely chopped
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
salt and pepper

2 carrots, medium dice
2 avocados

  • Place hijiki in a bowl and pour boiling water over it to generously cover. Let stand 20-30 minutes or until tender. Drain thoroughly.
  • Meanwhile, place dressing ingredients: shallot, vinegar, oil, lemon juice, sugar, mustard, salt and pepper in a lidded jar or container and shake until well combined. Taste for seasoning, adjust.
  • Add chopped carrots to drained seaweed and pour on the vinaigrette. Place in the fridge covered for at least one hour, preferably overnight.
  • When ready to eat, half the avocados (remove seed) and slice the flesh lengthwise into about 5 strips inside the avocado skin, without piercing the skin. Using a spoon, lift out the strips in one scoop as intact as possible and lay them on a plate (4 servings).
  • Mound a heaping spoonful of marinated hijiki salad on top of each sliced avocado half. Pour on a little extra dressing if desired.

I almost forgot the rant!! Seaweed also has anti-cancer, anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-boredom (i added that last one) properties. All that info is before even consulting wikipedia, which claims seaweed used in medicine fights tuberculosis, influenza, arthritis and even tumors. I hear it also helps dissolve cysts. It has no fat or calories, and combats sluggishness as it performs a house-cleaning on your insides. The only people who should steer clear of the sea crop are those who have a hyper-thyroid condition because the concentrated iodine content might cause trouble. For the rest of us, it means anti-goiter.

For the ultimate ease, try a seaweed shake… not the kind you drink with a straw, the kind you shake over things. Pictured here is a dulse and garlic shake which adds a great burst of flavor on top of soups, salads, roasted vegetables, stirfrys, popcorn, rice or just about anywhere you need a little seasoning. Other types may also contain sesame seeds, hot pepper flakes, salt, pepper. You can make your own combo with different ground seaweeds and the flavorings of your choice. Store in an airtight jar and shake! Use frequently. Enjoy.

hijiki_2seaweeds

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