Our December weekend of classes at the Natural Kitchen Cooking School focused on “Vegetables from the Land & Sea.” Admittedly, the thought of cooking with sea vegetables did not initially sound appetizing to me. I tend to avoid dishes made with sea vegetables, including sushi and the like. The “fishy” (or really, seaweed-tasting) dishes have always made me turn up my nose. Luckily, the dishes we were asked to create this weekend were a great introduction to sea vegetables. I learned that sea vegetables contain a wealth of rich nutrients such as calcium, iron, protein, and iodine. Also, when prepared with other vegetables, fats, and natural sweeteners, one can avoid the strong “fishy” taste.
For homework, we were asked to prepare some of these dishes at home. I decided to bust out my new chef knife, paring knife, and even an Alaskan Ulu knife and bowl set (that I got while we were in our honeymoon in Alaska two years ago) to prepare this fancy meal.
The menu included the following:
Sea Veggie Strudel
Sliced Portabella in Herb Gravy
The Sea Caesar salad incorporated sea vegetables such as nori and dulse flakes. For a gluten-free option, pumpkin seeds could have been used in lieu of croutons. This was a very unique and delicious salad. I remember getting seconds of this when we made it in class. At home, I forgot to add the olive oil to the dressing and it was still very good (although it would have been a bit creamier if I had actually remembered to include it).
Probably the most interesting and tasteful part of the meal was the Sea Veggie Strudel. Using Organic Whole Wheat Fillo Dough from The Fillo Factory, I embarked on making these pinwheel strudel appetizers filled with carrots and hijiki. They were sweetened with apple juice, which made the hijiki much more palatable than it would have been otherwise for someone new to sea veggies.. For those wanting it gluten-free, collard greens could have been used to wrap the veggies vs. the phyllo dough.
In addition to avoiding sea vegetables, I also tend to dislike mushrooms. When I saw that portabella was one of the main entrees we had to make, I cringed ever so slightly. Flashbacks to eating portabella sandwiches (which often included just a giant mushroom cap between two buns) as the only vegan option at some restaurants danced in my head. So I was pleasantly surprised when our Sliced Portabella in Herb Gravy turned out so well. The key was to slice the portabella mushroom thinly. We served it over our Millet Mash, which consisted of cauliflower and millet in place of traditional mashed potatoes. The combination was very hearty and tasty.
Overall, we were very pleased with this meal. It was a fine departure from my usual meals and has me interested in experimenting more with sea vegetables.