Why Wakame? Why Not!
By Kate Heyhoe
Wakame salad has become the darling of sushi bars and take-out cases. It’s slightly spicy, with a sweet-tart balance, and a toothsome chewiness that belies its origins as a sea vegetable—especially one that has been dried, reconstituted, prepared as a salad, and shipped frozen. Once thawed, prepared wakame salad sells for several dollars a pound. But you can make your own wakame salad in minutes at a fraction of the cost, and serve it now or freeze it for later enjoyment. It keeps beautifully.
Look for dried wakame, which is also used in soups, in Japanese, Korean or specialty markets, including health food stores. Regular wakame comes in long strips, but fueru wakame is already cut into bite-size pieces, which can be chopped after rehydrating into smaller bits or used as is. If you spot dried agar agar strands, add some to the salad for more texture and taste (rehydrate in water and squeeze dry.)
Why wakame? Like other sea vegetables, it’s a nutritious and mineral-rich, sustainable superfood with a low-impact cookprint. It’s especially rich in protein, calcium, iodine, magnesium, iron and folate. And you may be surprised at just how delicious it can be. If you’re a fan of the wakame salad served at sushi bars, try making your own with this basic recipe below. You can season to taste, and it costs less than half of what you’d pay for prepared versions. Plus, a package of dried wakame is shelf-stable and makes several servings, so it’s an excellent pantry item for when you’ve run out of lettuce or fresh salad fixings.
Kate’s Wakame Salad
While the wakame rehydrates, mix the dressing in the bottom of a serving bowl. Then simply add the slivered wakame, toss and serve at room temperature or chilled. The salad will be darker than commercially made varieties, which use preservatives to retain the bright green hue.
- 1 ounce dried wakame seaweed
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons grapeseeed, canola or neutral flavored oil
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Red pepper flakes to taste
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
Rinse the wakame, place in a bowl, and cover with water. Soak until soft, about 5 minutes. Squeeze dry and trim away the spines if the pieces are whole. Slice or chop into thin strips, and toss in a bowl with the dressing. Serve now, or cover and chill until ready to serve. The salad will keep refrigerated 3 days, or may be frozen and thawed in the refrigerator.
Copyright ©2009 Kate Heyhoe, NewGreenBasics.com
How Super-Sweet It Is!
By Kate Heyhoe
A food’s color makes an impact on consumer acceptance, and the normal color isn’t always the preferred one. Food coloring, for instance, is added to some farmed salmon to make it look bright rosy-red (not the dull, pastel pink it would be otherwise). Even so-called “natural” foods can be processed, bleached or dyed to enhance their appeal, which is somewhat oxymoronic.
I recently received a bag of Navitas Naturals Organic Stevia Powder. The bag is printed with a pleasant graphic design on all sides, obscuring the contents, which I didn’t notice until I looked inside. The stevia was green! Not what I was expecting, but not bad at all, as it turns out.
We all know that green is good, yet when a food we’re used to seeing as white arrives green, it can be jolting. But this stevia’s green color also makes it greener in a cookprint-shrinking way.
A few years ago, stevia was barely known; today, white stevia is sold in major supermarkets under various brand names as a sugar substitute, and it’s a widespread ingredient in beverages, baked goods and other products.
What’s the appeal of stevia? Zero-calorie, zero-carb and no spikes in blood-sugar levels. It’s made from a South American herb with a sweetening power a hundred times that of sugar. As one person said, “Stevia is God’s gift to diabetics.”
Wes Crain of Navitas Naturals explained why they sell green stevia. “Most Stevia is white as it is highly processed and usually an extract or an isolated chemical of the plant. Ours is the whole leaf milled to a fine powder,” he explains. But what about using it on baked goods, will they turn green? “The color should not affect recipes as the amount you use is quite small.” Also, stevia does not brown or crystallize as sugar does, so don’t use it for meringues or caramelizing.
Indeed, a little stevia goes a long way. Add a few grains too much to tea, for instance, and a sweet surge is palpable. Navitas Naturals recommends very small amounts at a time—start out with a pinch—and gradually increase to avoid over-sweetening a dish. As a sugar replacement, one teaspoon green stevia equals the sweetness of approximately 1/4 cup cane sugar (and for reference sake, 1/4 cup = 12 teaspoons). Green stevia is not as potent as the more processed liquid or white stevia versions, and it’s best used to enhance other sweeteners, to lower the sugar content in recipes. It’s also good in beverages like teas and smoothies.
Even white stevia has a bit of an herby, licorice-like undertone, which is even more pronounced in green stevia. With coffee, I found green stevia’s aftertaste a tad too noticeable, but it’s perfect for offsetting the bitterness of some greens and vegetables. (My husband blends up our daily afternoon green drink using spinach, cucumber, celery, ginger and such, and a little sweet stevia balances the flavors in lieu of apple or fruit juice.) A little green stevia can enhance a salad dressing, where the herby flavor blends in well, or to bring out the sweetness of tomatoes.
Navitas Naturals Organic Stevia Powder is 100% organic, vegan, and kosher, and comes in an 8-ounce resealable pouch (which could last for years, given its potent sweetening power). It’s sold at natural food stores and online. MSRP: $11.99