Monday, February 28, 2011

0 Recipe #247: Seaweed Salad

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This salad -- with its many colors, shapes, & textures -- is very eye-catching, and its flavors are equally as bold.

Those of you who love Japanese food and enjoy the umami flavor of seaweed, this recipe's for you. :) And for those of you who have never had seaweed before and are curious to try it, let me just state the following disclaimer: For many Americans, this food is probably an acquired taste. ;) The dressing in this recipe does considerably reduce the fishy taste of the seaweed, but it doesn't mask it completely. And, if you're not used to eating foods like this, it might take a little bit of time to get accustomed to its flavor. (Did that scare you off yet? ;) ) If you like seafood or enjoy eating sushi, chances are you might like seaweed salad. And of course, if you've already tried sushi, then you already know what seaweed tastes like. :)

[Please note: The outer wrapper of a sushi roll is actually a different type and form of seaweed (i.e., dried, pressed -- & sometimes roasted -- sheets of nori seaweed) than than the kind featured in this recipe (i.e., dried strips of wakame seaweed, reconstituted in water). These two types do, in fact, taste quite different from one another. For more info on the types of seaweed most commonly used in Japanese cuisine, please see this link.]

Here are some quick nutrition stats for you: Seaweed is an extremely low-calorie, low-carb food (only 4 calories and 1 gram of carbs per 2 Tbsp.). It's got zero fat and cholesterol, and zero glycemic load. However, it is high in sodium, which, of course, isn't too surprising considering that it floats around in salt water for days on end before it's plucked from the sea. ;) However, in this particular recipe, you'll be soaking the seaweed in warm water and then washing it in 3-4 changes of water before you add it to the salad, which will help somewhat to remove some of the salt content.

The recipe itself is loaded with nutrients: The vegetables, avocado, and miso paste all have excellent health properties.

Anata no kenkō ni kanpai! (あなたの健康に 乾杯!) (To your health! Cheers!)

Seaweed Salad

Salad Ingredients:
1 c. dried, precut strips of wakame seaweed, loosely packed
3 c. warm water (for soaking/reconstituting seaweed)
3/4 c. (English) cucumber; peeled, seeded, & sliced (with a peeler) into paper-thin 3"-long strips*
1/2 c. red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, de-ribbed, and julienned (1/8" x 1 1/2" slices)**
1/2 c. shredded daikon radish (about 1/2 large radish)
1/3 c. shredded baby carrots
1 1/3 c. shiitake (or regular) mushrooms, sliced 1/4"-thick (or thinner)
1/3 c. pickled ginger
1/3 c. sugar snap peas, shelled
1/2 c. scallions (about 6 large scallions)
1/3 c. (or more) fresh cilantro, densely packed & roughly chopped
2 Tbsp. jalapeño pepper, stemmed & sliced crosswise into paper-thin rounds (about 1 large pepper)
1 c. tofu, diced into 3/4" cubes
1 c. ripe Haas avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced into 3/4" cubes (1 medium sized Haas avocado)

Dressing Ingredients:
1/4 c. tamari sauce (i.e., Japanese soy sauce)
2 Tbsp. unseasoned, white wine rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 Tbsp. mirin
1/4 tsp. wasabi paste (from a tube), or to taste
1/8 tsp. ground white pepper; or to taste
1 Tbsp. garlic, peeled & finely mince (about 2 large cloves)
1 Tbsp. honey/sweetener
2 Tbsp. non-MSG miso paste, dissolved in 1 Tbsp. warm water***
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
2 Tbsp. white (or brown) sesame seeds

Directions: Prepare salad: In a large, deep mixing bowl, pour boiling water over dried seaweed and soak for 10 minutes, or until soft. Set aside. While seaweed is soaking, reserve 1 Tbsp. of the boiled water (from the kettle/pot) and place into a small custard dish with the honey, stirring until dissolved. After about 5-7 minutes of cooling time, add miso paste into the custard dish & stir until dissolved. Set aside. Drain seaweed well, rinse, and then return to bowl and wash seaweed in 3-4 changes of cold water, swishing it around in the bowl to release the salt.  Drain once again and then squeeze the seaweed (with your hands) to remove all excess water. Then lay out onto a non-porous cutting board. Cut seaweed into 1/2"-thick x 5"-long, noodle-like strips, cutting off any stray strings. Wash out bowl with water and dry with a paper towel, then return seaweed to the bowl. Add cucumber, red bell pepper, daikon radish, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, pickled ginger, sugar snap peas, scallions, and cilantro to the bowl, and toss well. Next, soak jalapeño pepper slices in another small custard dish of water for about 2-3 minutes to loosen seeds, and set aside. Rinse and drain jalapeño peppers to remove remaining seeds, & then add them to the salad. Toss salad once more and then set aside.

Make dressingIn a separate mixing bowl, combine tamari, white wine rice vinegar, lime juice, mirin, wasabi, white pepper, and garlic. Next, stir in the dissolved mixture of honey & miso paste, and whisk until smooth. Gradually incorporate the sesame seed oil into the dressing, whisking the dressing rapidly as you slowly pour a thin stream of the oil into the bowl. Stir in sesame seeds, mix well, and then pour the dressing over the seaweed salad and toss well.

Assemble remaining ingredients: Add tofu and avocado to salad, and gently toss the salad this time around, being careful not to mash these last two ingredients into oblivion. Chill in the fridge (to marinate) for at least 15-20 minutes before serving. Divide into equal portions & serve immediately.

Yield: 4-6 servings.

Chef's Notes: FYI, seaweed is not vegetarian or vegan. Thought I'd clear that up before anyone asks. ;) Not surprisingly, some fishy things from the sea get caught in its fibers, which give it it's umami flavor. That's why it's classified as "seafood" on this blog. :) While there's no actual significant pieces of seafood in this dish, (at least not ones that are easily visible to the human eye), it just didn't seem right to label the recipe as "vegetarian." It wouldn't have been accurate or helpful, especially to those trying to lead a truly vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.

*Cucumber prep: It's easier to make paper-thin slices by peeling lengthwise strips, rotating around the whole cucumber as you peel until you reach the seeds, than it is to slice it in half first, then scoop out seeds, & peel the cucumber into thin slices. This way, by using the former, recommended method, you can get a better grip on the cucumber while you're peeling it into slivers.

**Effective, time-saving technique for julienning red peppers: The fastest and most efficient way to julienne red pepper is to first slice off the top and bottom of the red pepper, then remove the ribs and seeds, and slice it in half lengthwise. Next, hold each pepper half upright and slice with a quick, repeating downward motions to make thin vertical strips. After some practice, this can be done with great speed.

**Both Whole Foods and both have vegetarian miso paste made without MSG.

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