Veggies of the Sea

Divers, kayakers, even beachcombers may be intrigued by the beauty of Pacific Coast seaweed, but rarely are they moved to put it on the dinner menu.Even the most adventurous eater may turn away at the thought of dining on sea vegetables, a less pejorative name for the many types of edible seaweed. The unfamiliar colors, textures and tastes can be daunting to the cook as well. Yet anyone who has sampled sushi or cleaned out their bowl of miso soup has probably enjoyed one of the many types of edible seaweed.Thick, fleshy fronds of kombu, brown and lacy sea palm fronds, and purple-red flakes of dulse attest to the variety of textures and colors of sea vegetables. Though they share the characteristic whiff of the sea, their flavors and uses vary widely. Sea vegetables can be used fresh, but are more commonly available in dried form. In addition to their most common use as the sushi wrapper, sea vegetables can be dipped in batter and deep-fried, used in soups and salads, or sprinkled as garnish to bring a smoky or salty quality to favorite bean or grain dishes.Mendocino residents Eleanor and John Lewallen have been harvesting sea vegetables from the pristine waters of the Mendocino Coast since 1980. Their wildcrafted sea vegetables, marketed under the company name "Mendocino Sea Vegetable Company," are available in many natural foods markets. Their close relationship with the flora of the intertidal zone has turned them into missionaries for the wider use of sea vegetables, and noted ocean protection activists. Together the Lewallens have written The Sea Vegetable Gourmet Cookbook and Wildcrafter's Guide, a highly personal collection of recipes, nutritional information and essays on life spent in close relation with the sea.The recipes are written by Eleanor, a self-described intuitive cook, who is not accustomed to using recipes. Be prepared for ingredients mentioned in the list, then overlooked in the instructions and other such editing lapses, but also be prepared for an adventuresome introduction to a variety of sea vegetables with which to enrich your cooking and your diet.The following recipes are adapted from The Sea Vegetable Gourmet Cookbook and Wildcrafter's Guide by Eleanor and John Lewallen. The book is available at local bookstores or by mail for $19.95 plus $2 postage and $1.45 California sales tax from Mendocino Sea Vegetable Company, P.O. Box 1265, Mendocino, CA 95460.Sushi Salad8 cups cooked rice, cooled3 tablespoons diced green onions 1 tablespoon honey4 tablespoons soy sauce (or to taste)2 teaspoons roasted sesame oil1 teaspoon grated ginger1 tablespoon sesame seeds1 teaspoon rice wine or vinegar4-6 garlic cloves, crushed1/2-1 cup minced parsley or cilantro1/2-1 cup flaked roasted noriDiced red and green bell peppersGrated zucchini, optionalIn a large bowl, combine rice with green onions, honey, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, sesame seeds, rice wine, garlic and parsley or cilantro. Stir gently to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in 1/4 to 3/4 cup of the nori and mix gently. Garnish with the remaining 1/4 cup nori, peppers and zucchini.Quinoa With Wakame2 cups quinoa3-4 cups water1 onion, diced1/4-1/2 cup wakame, rehydrated and slicedSalt or soy sauce to tasteRinse and drain the quinoa. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat, simmer 20 to 25 minutes. Cover, remove from heat and let stand for 30 minutes, until quinoa is well steamed and fluffy.Sea Palm Frond Salad Dressing1 ounce dry sea palm fronds1 cup water2 teaspoons honey1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar (Marukan or similar brand) 1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil1/3 cup olive oil1 tablespoon Mendocino mustard (or other sweet gourmet mustard)Place sea palm fronds in a small pot and add water to cover. Stir in honey. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat, add vinegar and sesame oil and let marinate for 5 to 10 minutes, while you make the salad. When the dressing has cooled, remove sea palm fronds and add them to the salad. Into the dressing whisk the olive oil and mustard. Taste and adjust the flavors.Black-Eyed Peas With Dulse2 cups black-eyed peas4 cups water1 onion, diced1-2 carrots, dicedSaltFlaked dulse, or whole dulse cut into thin strips with scissors, as garnishIn a saucepan, combine black-eyed peas, water, onion, carrots and salt. Cook for 30 minutes, until peas are tender. (Add a little more water if necessary.) Mix in dulse and serve.

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