Eaten any good algae lately? Chances are you have, even if you didn’t know it. Algae, or sea vegetables, are used as stabilizers or thickeners in everything from mayo to ice cream, and even if you avoid processed foods, you’ve probably enjoyed sushi wrapped up in nori or miso soup flavored with wakame. But if you aren’t a fan, there are several good reasons to start developing a taste for them. Besides providing the “broadest range of minerals of any food,” sea vegetables contain phytonutrients called lignans that protect against cancer, iodine that promotes healthy thyroid function, and folic acid that prevents birth defects and heart disease. But perhaps the best reason to eat them is for the unique flavor and texture they add to dishes.
For me, a little bit of “sea”soning goes a long way. I can’t stand food with a strong fishy taste, so I use sea vegetables very carefully and have come to know which ones are mild and which ones can be overpowering if misused. (I once had to triple the liquid in a miso soup because the wakame I sprinkled in too generously made it too fishy to eat.) I’m very careful with hijiki and wakame and even know which brands of nori will be too strong, but I’ve found that I can’t add too much arame:
If you’re just learning to cook with sea vegetables, arame is a good one to start with. It has a much milder taste than other seaweeds, and its long, thin strands rehydrate in just five minutes. Arame adds a delicate flavor and interesting texture to burgers, “crab” cakes, or salads, like this one, and once it’s rehydrated, it can be stir-fried along with other vegetables or used as a garnish on salads, sandwiches or just about anything. Try it in this chickpea salad, and feel free to add more if you like your salad to taste more “tuna-y.”
Sea-sational Chickpea Salad
Arame adds a light “sea” taste to the salad. For a more pronounced flavor, use more arame or add a little powdered kelp or dulse. You can also grind sushi nori to a powder in your blender and use it instead of or in addition to the arame, but start small and add more to taste.
- 1 tablespoon organic arame*, crushed between fingers slightly (about 3 grams)
- 1/2 cup silken tofu (lite preferred)
- 15 ounces cooked chickpeas (1 can or about 1 3/4 cups), drained
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped carrots
- 1 rib celery, chopped
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- Break the arame into smaller pieces before measuring. Rinse it in a strainer and place it in a small bowl. Add just enough water to cover and soak for 5 minutes. Drain (reserve the soaking water, if you like, and add it to the salad) and set aside.
- Combine the tofu and half the chickpeas in a food processor and pulse several times to mash all of the chickpeas well. Add remaining chickpeas and the carrots and pulse once or twice to roughly chop. Scrape into a bowl and add all remaining ingredients, including reserved arame. Cover and chill for at least half an hour to allow the flavors to blend. Check seasonings, adding more to taste. Serve with raw vegetables or as a sandwich filling.
*Because of the possibility of pollution of ocean waters, I recommend using only certified organic sea vegetables.
For an old-fashioned Southern flavor, try adding a couple tablespoons of sweet pickle relish.
Preparation time: 15 minute(s) | Cooking time: 0 minute(s)
Number of servings: 5 | Yield: about 1 2/3 cup
Nutrition (per serving): 159 calories, 21 calories from fat, 2.5g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 328.7mg sodium, 340.9mg potassium, 26.1g carbohydrates, 7.3g fiber, 5.1g sugar, 9.5g protein, 2.6 points.
More Salads to Consider:
- Vegan “Tuna” Salad from Gluten-Free Goddess
- Healthy Kale and Seaweed Salad from Diet, Dessert and Dogs
- Wakame Yam Noodle Salad from Veggie Wedgie
- Julienned vegetable salad with wakame seaweed from Cafe Liz