Friday, February 28, 2014

The Best Snack in the World: Seaweed Sesame Nut Crunch

Seaweed Sesame Nut Crunch

1 cup sesame seeds
1.5 cups whole, raw cashews
1 ounce wild nori (laver), cut into approximately 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons coconut oil (or some other oil)
5 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Big pinch sea salt
Big pinch cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 325.

Combine all ingredients in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir until mixture bubbles and everything is coated and combined, 2 or 3 minutes.

Transfer to parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake 8-10 minutes. Watch closely. This will burn suddenly.

Cool at least 10 minutes. Tear into chunks. Watch it disappear.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Get Your Hijiki On: Spicy Seaweed Sauté

I live in a dorm and eat most of my weeknight dinners in the cafeteria downstairs from my apartment. I am not complaining. I love having a meal plan. It's great to be able to come home from work after a long day, put on a pair of slippers and schlep down to an all-you-can-eat buffet. No frantic 5:30 trips to the grocery store, no tired pizza orders, no sink full of dirty dishes.

But let's just say I eat a lot of chickpeas during the week. A lot of salty lentil soup, bean burritos, and baked potatoes. I don't mind simple food, and it's fine, but usually by the weekend I am ready for something a little wilder, something that makes my cells and tastebuds sing a different song.

Add to this my recent fixation on seaweed, and here's what you get: a bowl-full of lively macrobiotic-inspired dishes: soba noodles with tahini-umeboshi sauce; tofu marinated in soy sauce, browned in coconut oil and coated with toasted sesame seeds; piles of steamed baby kale; and the pièce de résistance, a zingy sauté of onions, carrots, and the most powerful tasting seaweed of them all, hijiki.
Hijiki is briny and fishy and tough; it needs soaking and takes a while to cook; it's strong-smelling and takes some getting used to. But I have grown to love it, especially when cooked for a good long time with sweet vegetables and the toothsome seasoning trio of soy sauce, mirin (cooking wine) and cayenne. A little hijiki goes a long way, and it makes the perfect side dish to a grain-and-vegetable-based bowl of food like this, adding flavor and texture and a wallop of nutrition.
This is a bowl of food just begging to be mixed into a jumble, and hijiki is the magic element that brings it all together.
Spicy Seaweed Sauté
Serves 3 or 4 as a side dish

2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 small onion, sliced thinly
Big pinch sea salt
2 carrots, sliced into thin rounds
Big handful dried hijiki, soaked in water to cover for 30 minutes (or you can use arame, no need to soak)
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoon shoyu or any good-quality soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin or cooking sherry
Big pinch cayenne pepper

Heat coconut oil in skillet, add onion and salt and cook ten minutes over medium heat. Add carrot and stir well. Drain hijiki and stir into vegetables, cooking for a few minutes.

Add water, shoyu, mirin, and cayenne. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Check and add a little more water if you need to.

Uncover and cook off any remaining liquid. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Hail hijiki! Baked potato, I'll see you on Monday.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Don't Hate Me Because My Kombu Chips Are Beautiful

Kombu is a seaweed, mostly used in Japanese cooking as an ingredient in soup stock (dashi), because of its amazing flavor-enhancing qualities. It is loaded with glutamic salts, basically MSG without the gross headaches or health risks, and so makes food taste better, and makes beans more tender and digestible. It's good for you too; a potent source of iodine, and a good source of iron and calcium. 

Here's a nice piece from the Kitchn about kombu as a handy pantry item. 

Kombu also, as it turns out, makes the most delicious chips you've ever eaten. All you have to do is heat some oil in a pan and drop in squares of kombu (I use scissors to cut them). They cook almost instantly, changing from leathery and inedible to crispy and delectable in a minute or less. Watch this video to see their dramatic transformation!

kombu chips a video by lovesmiths on Flickr.

Kombu Chips
Serves 2 as a snack

Approximately 4 strips kombu, cut into 1 or 2-inch pieces
Coconut oil for frying

Heat oil until very hot and moving around but not smoking.

Add kombu chips and cook for about a minute until they expand and bubble or curl. See video.

Remove with a slotted spoon or chopsticks and drain on paper.