Perhaps it's all the time I've been spending at the beach, or that I've been reading a wonderful new book on sea vegetables, or the fact that seaweed seems so cooling on a hot day, but I've been craving seaweed salad in a major way this summer. Recently at a Japanese restaurant I had a seaweed, or kaiso, salad garnished with deep-fried rice crackers, which offered a nice, crispy counterpoint to the tender seaweed. Making my own salad back at home, I came up with a simpler, and healthier, alternative: popped amaranth.
Before I get to the amaranth, though, let's talk about the main attraction! For a vibrant combination of colors and textures, I like using the dried seaweed assortments that you can find at Japanese and Korean markets. SeaSnax also makes a SeaVegi salad mix that's showing up at mainstream grocery stores. Or you can use wakame seaweed, which is usually available at health food stores. It takes just 5 to 10 minutes to rehydrate the seaweed, and then you toss it with a zippy dressing and garnish it with sesame seeds and amaranth.
Like quinoa, amaranth is a gluten-free, protein-packed seed. Toasted on the stovetop, it quickly puffs up like tiny kernels of popcorn. Though you could leave the amaranth off this seaweed salad, I really like how it adds a bit of nutty flavor and crunch along with toasted sesame seeds. For a more substantial salad, you could serve this over lettuce with cubes of tofu and perhaps a few other vegetables like cucumber, daikon, or microgreens.
Seaweed Salad with Popped Amaranth and Sesame
Serves 4 to 6
1 ounce dried mixed seaweeds or wakame
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons tamari (can substitute soy sauce; see Recipe Notes)
1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon ginger juice (made by pressing grated ginger through a strainer)
2 teaspoons honey (can substitute sugar)
2 scallions, thinly sliced or shredded
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon amaranth
Place the seaweed in a large bowl and cover with cool water for 5 to 10 minutes until desired tenderness is reached (5 minutes for crunchier seaweed, 10 minutes for softer seaweed). Drain and gently squeeze out the excess water.
To make the dressing, combine the rice vinegar, tamari, sesame oil, ginger juice, and honey. Taste and adjust if desired.
In a large bowl, toss the seaweed, scallions, and half of the sesame seeds with the dressing.
To toast the amaranth, heat a deep-sided saucepan over medium heat. Add a drop of water to the pot — if it immediately sizzles, the pot is hot enough. Add the amaranth and stir continually until the seeds pop (about 10 seconds). Immediately remove from heat to prevent burning.
Sprinkle the remaining sesame seeds and the toasted amaranth on top of the seaweed and serve.
Tamari: To make sure this recipe is gluten-free, use tamari that does not contain wheat. Can also substitute soy sauce, which is a bit saltier.
(Images: Emily Ho)