Who would have thought that even mainstream fast-casual and fine dining restaurants would have kale salads on the menu? Kale is everywhere, being massaged, baked, blended, juiced, souped and sautéed. But this leafy superfood is bound to have to share the spotlight soon.
So what’s next? Hint: it comes from the sea. Yes, it’s time to expand on your kale fixation because numerous food industry sources are predicting seaweed to be the next “It” food. If you’re a health conscious eater, Japanese food lover, or clean eating advocate you have probably eaten seaweed salad and, while you can still expect to see seaweed in salad form, get ready for bacon-flavored algae, seaweed popcorn and seaweed spaghetti as seaweed takes its place as the new superfood on the block.
Are you saying “eww” about right now? Known as wakame, arame, kelp, hijiki, seaweed is a staple ingredient in Japanese cooking and is prized for its salty, umami character in the culinary world. Picture above, Chef Adam Navidi at Oceans & Earth complements a single seared Sea Scallop, a component in his “Tasting of Tides” and beautifully presented in a striated rose-colored shell, with a ribbon of seaweed and a bright Orange-Ginger reduction. As seaweed’s superfood status catches on it is likely to become as mainstream as kale, gradually being seen as more than a healthy snack, key to a flavorful broth, or unique garnish.
At Anchor Hitch in Mission Viejo, a tangle of crisp seaweed straws finishes Chef Michael Pham’s Uni Pasta – fresh egg noodles, uni cream, sous vide poached egg, rule puffs, and crispy seaweed. Rich and decadent with a creamy mouthfeel, each bite is enhanced by the salty, crispy seaweed and diminutive magic puffs of rice.
No way am I suggesting you write kale off, this leafy vegetable tops the scale of nutrient density, has unrivaled culinary versatility (from chips to salads, cocktails to sorbet), and you can find local, delicious kale in all of the 8,144 farmers’ markets in America, according to Drew Ramsey M.D., physician, farmer, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and co-author of 50 Shades of Kale and The Happiness Diet: A nutritional prescription for a balanced mood, sharp brain and lean, energized body.
Slow Food USA believes that in order to be called “the next Kale”, a food has to demonstrate not only exceptional nutritional value, but positive environmental and ecological externalities, potential to meet large-scale need, and the ability to create jobs at home. Those are vital requirements in a world that continues to grow while food supplies dwindle, and seaweed is the answer.
Besides seaweed salad or sushi, what can you cook at home to incorporate seaweed? Try this easy recipe for Blackened Cabbage by Christian Puglisi, (Relae, Copenhagen) spyed in Bon Appétit (along with 14 other umami-packed seaweed recipes).
Credit: Michael Graydon + Nikole Herriott
- 2 1-inch pieces dried kombu
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
- 1 medium pointed cabbage or green cabbage (about 1½ pounds), outer leaves removed
- 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
- 10 basil leaves
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- Kosher salt
- Special Equipment
- A spice mill or a mortar and pestle
- Grind kombu in a spice mill or with a mortar and pestle to a fine powder. (You should have about ¾ tsp.) Heat oil in a medium heavy skillet (such as carbon steel or cast iron) over medium-high and add half of cabbage, cut side down (reserve remaining half for another use). Cook cabbage, undisturbed, until underside is almost blackened (the edge of the sides will start to brown as well), 10–15 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium-low, add butter to skillet, and shake pan to help butter get in, around, and under cabbage. As soon as butter is melted and foaming, tilt skillet toward you and spoon browning butter over cabbage, being sure to bathe the area around the core (thick and dense, this part will take the longest to cook), 30 seconds. Stop basting and let cabbage cook, undisturbed, 3 minutes, then baste again, 30 seconds more. Repeat cooking and basting process twice more (butter will continue to get darker as it cooks, and that's okay; add a knob or two more to bring it back from the brink), adding kelp to brown butter just before final basting. At this point, cabbage should be tender (a cake tester or skewer inserted into the core should meet with no resistance) and the outer leaves have pulled away from one another. If cabbage is not done, repeat cooking and basting process once more.
- Transfer cabbage to a cutting board and cut into two quarters. Pull leaves open slightly and tuck basil here and there between a few leaves. Drizzle with vinegar and season with salt. Let cabbage sit a minute or two for basil to soften before serving.
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