There's so much more to seaweed than sushi rolls and sprinkles.
Joe Yonan

Washington Post
5 Feb 2016 - 5:11 PM  UPDATED 19 Apr 2016 - 4:45 PM

There is so more to seaweed than the Japanese seaweed salad.

Primarily because of its sustainability, I've been curious about seaweed for many years, but my curiosity hasn't led to much more than a cursory familiarity with some of the other obvious uses for it: in increasingly ubiquitous packaged snacks, as the wrapper for sushi rolls, in miso soup, ground up and combined with sesame for a sprinkle-on-everything seasoning.

Seagreens - as seaweed is now being called - are worth a deeper look, especially because they're so nutrient-dense. But what they've needed is a champion who can talk not just about their omega-3s, calcium, protein, fiber and iodine, but also about the potential for deliciousness in a vegetable-loving cook's kitchen.

Thankfully, Barton Seaver is up to the challenge. The American cookbook author and sustainability expert (some might say evangelist) first started experimenting with seaweed as a seafood restaurateur in Washington. "As I . . . became increasingly more interested in the tastes and textures of the ocean, it dawned on me that I had long overlooked an entire category of seafood," he writes in the introduction to his new book, Superfood Seagreens. The more he experimented, the more enchanted he became with seagreens as an ingredient - not something that could necessarily be featured as a main course, but as a flavoring or garnish that brings the umami-rich taste of the ocean into dishes.

Seaver's book, in fact, presents some of the most compelling uses for seagreens that I've seen. He tosses torn sheets of toasted nori into a watermelon, lime and mint salad. He blends kelp with ginger, walnuts and more into a pesto perfect for the produce-lean winter. And he adds kombu to the familiar Indian dish of saag paneer - creamy spinach with fresh cheese.

It was that last one I couldn't resist. I used firm tofu instead of paneer, and I loved how the kombu added an earthy, deep note to the flavors. It was surprising and familiar, all at once.


Get the recipe: Saag tofu with kombu

More greens from the sea

One of my favourite Japanese foods is okonomiyaki, a kind of Japanese savoury pancake where the batter is mixed with whatever toppings take your fancy. But the toppings used with okonomiyaki are also fantastic in a baked potato. Try these with bacon and cheese, grilled prawns or any leftovers you may have in the fridge.

Seaweed salad

Seaweed, used extensively in Japanese cooking, is a rich source of minerals.