Seaweed is the little green plant that can save our planet. It’s a high quality source of protein, its cultivation doesn’t take up agricultural land, and it hardly uses any fresh water. As the climate continues to change — as oceans warm and acidity changes — this will have a huge impact on all life that depends on the sea. As a saline crop with an inverse carbon footprint, seaweed can be part of the solution to global warming while helping people navigate the near-term effects. That was one of my motivations for creating the cookbook Ocean Greens with Marcel Schuttelaar.
Seaweed contains many minerals and vitamins easily absorbed by the body, and because of its high concentration of fiber, sugars in the digestive system are absorbed more slowly, causing blood sugar levels to rise at a slower rate. Seaweed also contains many healthy fatty acids and important amino acids, and when properly prepared, it’s delicious. Because of the high levels of iodine and omega-3 fatty acids, seaweed should be consumed in moderation and as part of a well-balanced diet. The recipes below will be the perfect introduction.
There’s a good chance you’ve eaten seaweed before — all are deliciously salty and briny, each with its own distinct character. Seaweed can be wonderful when combined with the right ingredients, but can be too intense when combined with ingredients that bring out the extreme ocean taste. If you are new to seaweed, start with mellower dulse and sea lettuce. If you have no experience eating seaweed, begin with an accessible ’weed species that’s easy to use in combination with other ingredients. Given the wide variation in taste and texture, it’s an adventure to find out what you like, and with which dishes to pair them. There are several herbs and ingredients that boost and complement seaweed’s umami flavor, such as nutritional yeast, garlic, tomato, union, rocket, miso, miring, sesame, tahini, soy sauce and sesame oil.
A few things to take into account when cooking with seaweed:
- Make sure the seaweed you buy is fresh. It can be frozen or pickled, just make sure it doesn’t contain white parts, which indicate the seaweed is too old.
- Make sure you rinse seaweed with a bit of salt water. This prevents it from getting too slimy!
- Don’t harvest seaweed yourself. Leave the harvesting to people who are experienced and know how to pick the right species, and the freshest specimens. Don’t eat loose seaweed found on the beach.
Seaweed is available in groceries throughout the United States and online, such as at This is Seaweed and Maine Coast Sea Vegetables, which has been harvesting seaweed since 1971. Through Ocean Greens, we hope more people will become interested in seaweed and want to cook with it. It’s a small market, but growing rapidly. My wish is that it will grow sustainably, in a way that will support nature and wildlife, in the sea and on land.
You can read more of Kreischer’s insights in her interview with Nexus Media.
Squash & Seaweed Pancakes
Makes about 10 pancakes
Nice thick pancakes filled with pumpkin and layered with seaweed pesto and fresh purslane. Doesn’t that sound exciting? The sweet pumpkin combines well with the briny kombu, and together they truly explode with taste. Bon appétit!
- 0.7 ounce (20 g) fresh kombu
- 1 small hokkaido squash or other winter squash
- 3 cups (350 g) spelt flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1½ teaspoons dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon curry powder
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for cooking
- 1 cup (250 ml) warm water
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 cup Pesto from the Sea (below)
- 3 1/2 cups (150 g) winter purslane, rinsed and dried
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Lemon juice
- Everything Goes ’Weed Mix (recipe in book)
- Thoroughly rinse the kombu to remove all the brine. Dab dry and chop. Peel the squash, remove the seeds, and cube the flesh.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the squash cubes; boil until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain and blend in a food processor into a smooth puree. Separate 1 and 2/3 cups (400 g) of puree for the pancakes. If there’s extra, you can freeze it for later.
- Combine the flour, baking powder, rosemary, paprika, and curry powder in a bowl. In another bowl, mix the squash puree with the oil, kombu, and warm water and then add this to the flour. Whisk thoroughly until you have a thick, smooth pancake batter. Season with salt and pepper.
- Heat a splash of olive oil in a skillet and pour some batter in the pan. Rotate the pan so you get a small, thick, and round pancake about 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter. Cook until golden brown on both sides, about 6 minutes, flipping after 3 minutes. You can use a greased ring in the pan so all pancakes are evenly sized and perfectly round. Keep the pancakes warm by setting them on a plate that’s resting on a pot of simmering water.
- Top the pancakes with Pesto from the Sea and fresh winter purslane. Sprinkle the purslane with some olive oil and lemon juice and garnish with Everything Goes ’Weed Mix.
Pesto From the Sea
Makes one (8-ounce) jar
This green pesto owes its intense and powerful flavor to the use of kombu. It’s such an easy recipe that you can experiment with the ingredients as much as you like. The arugula and basil, for instance, can be substituted with any leafy green of your choice. And the pine nuts can be replaced by any other type of nut, such as cashews or hazelnuts. You can even use sunflower seeds! Serve the pesto on crackers, on a grilled vegetable sandwich, or with a bowl of pasta.
- 1.4 ounces (40 g) fresh kombu (or a mix of kombu and wakame)
- ¹/3 cup (50 g) roasted pine nuts
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- 1 cup (25 g) fresh basil (including stems)
- 1 cup (25 g) arugula
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil + extra for storing
- 1½ teaspoons lemon juice
- Thoroughly rinse the kombu with water, making sure all pickling salt has been washed off. Dab dry and cut into pieces.
- Puree the kombu, nuts, garlic, basil, arugula, olive oil, and lemon juice in a food processor until the mixture forms a smooth paste.
- Put the pesto in a glass jar, cover with a layer of olive oil, and store in the fridge for up to two weeks. Always serve with a clean spoon to maintain freshness.
Just Another Tiramisu
No green seaweed this time but agar, an ingredient you may have heard about before — and may even have used. Agar, or agar-agar, is a thickener that works similarly to gelatin, but it’s plant-based: made from seaweed. Once you have gotten the hang of how to apply agar in your cooking, you will no doubt begin to value this versatile and useful thickener. It’s especially useful for whipping up mousses and crèmes, particularly this delicious coconut mousse, dressed as a fashionable tiramisu.
- 10 Medjool dates, pitted
- ½ cup (125 ml) strong, freshly brewed coffee (from grounds preferred)
- 2 and 1/3 cups (550 ml) coconut milk
- ¹/3 cup (80 ml) maple syrup
- Zest of ½ lemon
- 2 tablespoons (15 g) agar powder
- Splash of water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla powder (or the seeds of 1 bean)
- Pinch of salt
- 8 (round) whole wheat tea biscuits, crumbled
- Cocoa powder, for garnish
- Soak the dates in the coffee for 10 minutes.
- Combine the coconut milk, maple syrup, and lemon zest in a saucepan over low heat. In a small bowl, add a splash of water to the agar and, while stirring, pour the emulsion into the coconut mixture. Increase the heat a little and bring to a boil while stirring continuously. Lower the heat again and partly cover with a lid. Let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent it from curdling or sticking to the pan. Remove from the heat, allow to cool, and set aside in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
- Place the coffee, dates, vanilla powder, and salt in the food processor and puree until thick and smooth.
- Once the coconut mousse has stiffened completely, remove it from the fridge. Process it with an immersion blender until smooth and creamy.
- To assemble, add a scoop of coconut mousse to a small glass, sprinkle with some biscuit crumbs, and top with a scoop of the date-coffee sauce. Repeat. Another scoop of mousse, some biscuit crumbs, and another scoop of sauce on top. Finish by adding one final small scoop of mousse, then dust with some cocoa powder. Allow the tiramisu to stiffen in the fridge for at least 15 more minutes before serving.
Recipes from Ocean Greens: Explore the World of Edible Seaweed and Sea Vegetables by Lisette Kreischer and Marcel Schuttelaar. © Kosmos Uitgevers Utrecht/Antwerpen 2015, 2016. Translation © Maria M. Reimer and Victor Verbeck, 2016. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold. experimentpublishing.com
This story is made available by Nexus Media, a syndicated newswire covering climate, energy, policy, art and culture.