Sea Vegetables, by Melanie Gray

Are you starting to feel a little uninspired while walking through the produce aisle this winter? Looking for some new cooking ideas? Why not try adding some sea vegetables in your soup! Some people may think it sounds strange.  Others may be thinking “There’s no way I’m going to eat sea vegetables!” However, sea vegetables (the politically correct way of saying “seaweed”) are actually in a wide variety of commercial foods that we eat! They act as stabilizers and thickeners for things like; commercial ice creams, different types of nut and soy milks, baked goods, and even hotdogs. By eating the whole-plant, sea vegetables can pack your meals full of iodine, iron, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorous. These little nutrient-dense superfoods can be added to miso soups, Asian-style stews and sushi.

Some of the more mild-tasting varieties that you can find are nori, arame, komu (kelp), hijiki (flaked kelp), dulse, and wakame. You can find most varieties at Whole Foods, various Co-Ops around the Metro, and in the speciality sections at the supermarkets. The dried varieties of sea vegetables can be kept at room temperature indefinitely when stored in airtight containers. Experiment around with some different Japanese recipes, or make up your own and add a little seaweed to your life.

Wakame and Soba Noodle Soup
Adapted from Vegetarian Planet by Didi Emmons

7 cups water
1 oz wakame sea vegetable
2 cups sliced onions
1- 1 inch piece fresh ginger, sliced into 6 thin rounds
6 oz dried soba noodles
2 cups chopped carrots
1 tbsp dark sesame oil
8 oz silken tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions
1 tbsp rice vinegar, or a bit more to taste
2 tbsp miso, or a bit more to taste
salt to taste

1. In a large pot, combine the water, wakame, onions, and ginger. Over medium heat, let the mixture simmer for 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the soba noodles, boil them for 4 to 5 minutes, then drain and rinse them with cool water. Set the rinsed soba aside.
3. Add the carrots to the simmering wakame liquid, and continue to simmer for 10 more minutes. Add the noodles, sesame oil, tofu, scallions, vinegar and miso. Taste the soup, and add a little salt, vinegar, or miso if you would like. Ladle the soup into large soup bowls (discarding the ginger) and enjoy!

Variation: Peel and half lengthwise 4 inches of daikon radish, then slice the halves crosswise into thing half-moons. Add the daikon to the soup with the carrots during the third step.

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