Better Than Chips
I used to indulge in potato chips and am delighted to report that this is past tense. I now opt for a savory and phenomenally healthful treat that’s equally crunchy. Thanks to toasted seaweed (which happens to be among our most nutrient-dense plants), I don’t miss packaged chips.
Toasted sea palm has such a great flavor and crunch that my guests and grandkids munch it up as fast as I set it out. Toasted laver (wild nori) has even more texture, flavor and crunch than does the domesticated nori that’s used in the popular sea snacks.
Long before Fritos were invented, dulse was a favorite snack in Irish pubs for its jerky-like flavor and chewy texture; crisping dulse tenderizes it to remove the chew and makes it chip-like.
Kombu chips and alaria are crunchy and tasty. There’s something about the flavor of kelp frond chips that wins me over every time. And then there’s jade-green sea lettuce, which intriguingly melts from crisp to cloud-like in your mouth. I recommend each to you, and you will find directions for crisping them below.
But first, what’s the big deal about veggies from Neptune’s treasure trove?
- The only plant sources of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.
- An extraordinary source of iodine and other minerals.
- Radio protective—Offer protection from radioactive contaminants. Are they themselves clean? I buy from reputable companies* who regularly test for toxins.
- Flavorful—Their natural (and healthful) form of glutamate imparts umami flavor and kicks up flavor.
Easy Ways to Use Seaweed
Seaweed is a daily ingredient in my home. Their multiple textures and personalities afford impressive culinary potential in dishes ranging from soup to dessert. Which type might I use? That will depend upon the other ingredients, the cooking time or my whim. For example, I use kelp fronds or any of the flaked or granulated seaweeds in a stir-fry, braised dish or soup, for I can add them at the last minute and they’ll boost the flavor.
Rather like pancetta in flavor, a little applewood smoked dulse dramatically pairs with other foods. Stir a few tablespoons into a side dish of simmered sweet potato, add it to a sandwich for a DLT (rather than a BLT) or mix it into avocado to elevate a spread or dip.
Many people use flaked and ground seaweed as a salt substitute. They boost the nutrition of popcorn, hummus, salad dressings and smoothies. Sea lettuce and nori crinkles make a tasty garnish and also add eye appeal. Instant wakame flakes are great in soups and salads.
Arame is my favorite sea veggie to add to fermenting sauerkraut, as its elegant ebony strands are comely in the finished kraut and they add good flavor and nutrition. But when I’m in the mood for something crunchy, it’s sea chips that beckons.
But before the recipe, here’s an innovative use of this superfood–enjoy it fresh. Today you can enjoy just harvested (versus dried) seaweed shipped right to your home thanks to America’s first and only commercial kelp farm, Ocean Approved. I’ve tried–and recommend–their kelp wraps, kelp cubes (for smoothies) and shredded kelp for slaw and stir fries.
Sea Chip Recipe
Last year, my neighbor Kari Rein offered me a cup of tea and sea chips that she’d toasted in her oven using only the pilot light for 24 hours or so. I’ve been making these chips ever since then. Prior to that I’d perhaps crisp dulse in a skillet once a year or so. The slow toasting makes them more uniformly tender and crispy. Thank you, Kari.
And if you’re in the mood for a quick chip now and then, you can toast your sea vegetables for a few minutes in the toaster oven or crisp them in an oiled or unoiled skillet. Be sure to watch closely and turn as necessary.
While any whole seaweed may be crisped, those with a stipe (stem) that’s significantly thicker than the frond, such as alaria, mekabu and wakame, will not crisp uniformly. Here are my favorites:
Sea palm, sea lettuce, arame, kelp fronds, kombu, laver (wild nori) or dulse
Pick over the sea vegetable to remove any tiny pebbles or shells that might be hidden in the leaves. As possible, separate the fronds to facilitate even toasting, and as necessary, cut or tear into bite-size pieces. Toast as much seaweed as you’ll eat in a week or so or as oven space allows.
Long Toasting: Turn on the oven light, pilot light or (if your oven is so equipped) bread proofing cycle. Or place in a box-style dehydrator heated to 100 to 200°F. Arrange the seaweed in a thin layer on a baking sheet and crisp for 8 to 24 hours. The time depends upon what temperature you use, the moisture content and thickness of the seaweed. There’s no need to turn them. Don’t worry; you won’t burn it, and prolonged crisping won’t lower the quality of the food. Taste periodically, and when the sea vegetable is both crisp and tender, it’s ready. If it’s chewy, it needs additional time. Store crisped sea chips in a tightly stored container and they’ll retain their texture for a week or so.
Quick Roasting: Roast for 3 to 5 minutes at 300°F; pan-fry in oil for 4 to 5 minutes, until crisp; or dry roast in a skillet over low heat until crisp. Watch closely and turn as necessary.
Optional: After crisping, and just before serving, you may brush or spritz the chips with extra virgin olive oil and dust with a dash of cayenne.
Photo credit to Maine Coast Sea Vegetables for Sun on Hanging Kelp and Dulse and Sea Lettuce Underwater