Nori Roll-Ups: Messy to Eat, But Fun to Make

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I promise you, these are as amusing to make as they are to eat. Take a piece of sushi nori, pile on ingredients, roll it up and eat it kind of like a burrito.  Messy, but fun. My recipe calls for short grain brown rice, marinated tempeh, napa cabbage and carrot salad, ginger pickles and a creamy sesame dressing, but let your imagination loose. Who knows where it will lead? Get the basics ready in the kitchen, but bring all the components to the table and let your dining companions assemble their own roll-ups. Serve with a dipping sauce, if you like. Recipes after the jump.

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Sea Vegetables: Roasted Nori, An Addictive New Snack

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I found this roasted, seasoned nori at Trader Joe's. Irresistible!

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I almost hesitate to mention this new snack which appeared recently at Trader Joe’s, for fear that those of you with addictive personalities will blame me for hooking you on something new! But here it is: Roasted Seaweed Snack, consisting only of roasted nori seasoned with a little salt and sesame and canola oils.  A lighter, healthier snack would be hard to come by.  The package weighs .4 ounce–so you know it’s unlikely to pack on the pounds, and two pieces contain only 15 calories. Nori, of course, is one of those sea vegetables I’m so enamored with, and why not?  It tastes really good, and even kids who’ve never seen it before, quickly come to love it.  Nutritionally, you can’t go wrong as it contains nice quantities of vitamins A and B, as well as iodine, protein, carotene, calcium and iron. Although this product is Korean, Japan, which produces about 350,000 tons a year, is by far the largest producer and consumer of nori. You’ll see it wrapped inside or out of the maki rolls at your local sushi bar.  It’s grown in an elaborate system of racks in the water and finished in a process which resembles paper making. So, if you, like me, prefer your snacks slightly salty, I commend Roasted Seaweed Snacks to you. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s nearby, many Asian markets sell a similar product, and as with almost everything else, you can order it online.

Full-sized sheets of nori (right), roasted, seasoned nori (left). Photo by Alice Weigand via Wikipedia.

Wondrous Vegetables from the Sea: What They Are and How to Use Them

Clockwise from top: bars of agar agar, sliced kombu, kombu, hijiki, sheets of nori, wakame, in the center: dulse

Writing about intriguing foods which are under-appreciated in the U.S. seems to be one of my themes. Sea vegetables (marine algae) certainly fall into this category. Today, I begin an exploration of these edible marvels: what they are, where to find them, how to eat them.  I’m not a marine biologist, so I’ll only be able to scratch the surface of the thousands of varieties of sea vegetables which are cultivated or grow in nature.  I’ll concentrate on the eight to ten varieties most readily available to purchase (I’ve included links to people who sell sea vegetables online at the end of  this post).

So, why do I find sea vegetables so interesting?  Three reasons, mainly.  First, to me and to most of us, they provide new flavors, textures, colors and tastes. They expand the range of materials we cooks have to work with. Incorporating them into our cuisine breaks new culinary ground, and I find that exciting.  Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is their nutritional profile. Like everything natural, they vary from variety to variety and harvest to harvest, but generally, they are remarkably high in minerals and trace elements, especially iron, calcium, iodine, magnesium and potassium, as well as vitamins A and K and folic acid, while being low in fat and cholesterol free. And thirdly, some of the best ones are gathered in our own back yard (I consider the Mendocino coast part of our back yard).

So let’s get started with a few of the common varieties…

Pear and Red Grape Kanten, gelled with agar agar (recipe after the jump)

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