Saturday, May 23, 2009

Kelp Pickles

Summer, 2008. I was in Seattle, pursuing graduate studies in nutrition at Bastyr University. One of my instructors, a Nutritionist and Natural Foods Chef, was organizing a “seaweed harvesting excursion” in the San Juan Islands. I had seen signs posted for the trip throughout campus. The prospect of going on this trip intrigued me. My only formal interaction with seaweed up until this point was on the New Jersey shore as a kid. Throwing it at my sisters, draping it on the top of my head, under my armpits. I had never “harvested” seaweed. In fact, I wasn’t sure what harvesting seaweed meant. I talked to some schoolmates who had gone on the trip the previous year. Their experiences were more than favorable, so I signed up.

Sixteen of us converged on Lopez Island in Spencer Spit State Park, one of 2 campgrounds on the island, on a Friday evening in late July.

On Saturday, we were slated to kayak to an ancient kelp bed and harvest bull-whip kelp. Bullwhip kelp is olive green in color. It is made up of a round, hollow bulb, from which ribbon-like fronds emerge. The bulb is filled with carbon monoxide for flotation which enables the fronds to float close to the surface and receive adequate sunlight. Attached to the bulb is a hollow “stipe,” or stalk, about 100 feet long. There is a root-like structure or “holdfast” on the lower end of the stipe which attaches to a rock on the bottom of the sea floor.

We showed up at the kayak shop and got outfitted with paddles, dry skirts, and life jackets, got seated and comfortable in our 2-person kayaks and off we went out into the bay towards the ancient kelp bed. Kelp beds or “forests” often accumulate in areas of fast currents usually in channels between islands. Apparently, this particular kelp bed has existed for hundreds of years.
When we arrived in the kelp bed, I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of calm and equilibrium. As I reflect back on this experience, I believe it’s one of the most peaceful spaces I’ve been in my life.

After our moment of silence with the kelp bed, we all began harvesting. The focus of our harvesting was sustainability. Harvesting kelp sustainably involves leaving part of the stipe and holdfast in tact so that the kelp can regenerate. Industrialized seaweed harvesting is usually unsustainable because machines detach the holdfasts from the rocky sea floor making it impossible for the kelp to regenerate.

For those who have never harvested kelp, the process is pretty simple. All you need is a large plastic trash bag and a pocket knife. The process went something like this. First, I lifted the fronds out of the water and placed them in the plastic bag. They were heavy and slippery. Next, I lifted about 4-5 feet of the stipe out of the water and detached this portion with my pocket knife. A popping sound emerged as the gas was released from the hollow tube. Hearing that sound was emotionally gratifying, I felt like a kid again.

After harvesting our kelp, we returned to camp and what ensued was a massive seaweed processing orgy. Kelp fronds were slung over a clothing line creating a seaweed curtain at the entrance to the campsite. Large plastic cutting boards covered the wooden picnic tables. Kelp stipes were being prepped for pickling and various shapes and sizes emerged: o-rings, spears, diagonal slices, and cubes. Pickling brine was bubbling on the camp stove, aromas of onion, garlic, cardamom and coriander infused the campsite. We all waited urgently while the brine stewed. Finally, the chopped stipe and hot aromatic brine were married in some 40 odd mason jars.

I had never heard of, seen or ingested a kelp pickle prior to this trip. Within 1-week of being back in Seattle, I cracked open the kelp pickle jars. It was heaven. Crunchy, sweet, nutritional heaven. They were a meal unto themselves. I felt solidly nourished every time I ate one. They paired well with almost everything I ate: sandwiches, burgers, salads, cheeses, and eggs. I shared my pickles with friends, family, co-workers and classmates. The response was overwhelmingly positive. The kelp pickle did not offend a soul; rather, it inspired interest, enthusiasm, and determination to eat more seaweed.

Below is the pickling recipe that we used on Lopez. It is a recipe by seaweed enthusiast Jennifer Hahn and has been modified slightly.

Horn Tootin' Kelp Pickles

Prepping the kelp:
Cut bull whip kelp stipe ("stipe" is the correct name for the sea algae's stalk) into 1-foot sections.

Cut stipe into 1/8-inch-wide o-rings or 3-inch spears
Place spears or o-rings of kelp in pint or quart wide-mouth glass jars.

Preparing the brine:
3 cups white vinegar
2 fresh garlic cloves, diced
3 tablespoons pickling spice
4 teaspoons turmeric
3 cups sugar
1 red onion, cut into crescents

Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot, bring to boil. Simmer for 45 minutes. Pour into glass jars over kelp spears or o-rings.

**Note: The seaweed trip will run this summer July 24-26, 2009. Contact Jennifer Adler at for more information.

Salal Berries

Native to the Northwest, I was first introduced to these berries on my seaweed harvesting excursion on Lopez Island last summer. Salal berries are similar to blueberries but the fruit is seedier and more acidic. They are bluish black in color and oblong. They are most ripe in the months of August through September. This recipe was written by seaweed enthusiast Jennifer Hahn author of Spirited Waters: Soloing South Through the Inside Passage.

Wild Salal-Cranberry Relish
3 cups wild salal berries (tiny berry stems needn't be removed)
3 cups cranberries (raw, whole)
3/4 cup sugar
Rind of 1 organic orange (coarsely grated)

Toss all ingredients in cook pot. Cook on low heat until the berries are tender.
Pinch of cinnamon or teaspoon of ginger is a nice complement. Serve with grilled salmon or chicken.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Seaweed Intensive with Jennifer Adler

For centuries cultures around the world have relied on seaweed for nourishment and as a medicinal food. Right here in the Pacific Northwest we can still access these amazing plants. This program will take place on beautiful Lopez Island where we will hike and kayak to learn the ecology and uses of sea vegetables. In addition to harvesting and drying and pickling enough seaweed to last your family for the entire year we will incorporate sea vegetables into all of our meals. You will leave with a vast array of information about seaweed identification as well as the health and nutritive benefits of these ancient plants.

No hiking, camping or kayaking experience necessary.
Where: Lopez Island, Washington.
Accommodations: Spencer Spit State Park. We will camp in a beautifully wooded group campsite. There is an Adirondack shelter with bunk beds available as well. Food: Whole foods breakfasts and dinners are provided.
Dates: July 24-26, 2009
Cost: $375 if registered by July 1st. $425 after July 1st. Register early because this class is limited to 12 participants.
Contact: Jennifer Adler, 206-595-0376 or

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Seasonal Menus

Seasonality is equally as important as nutrient density, macro and micronutrient profile.

Asparagus Frittata with Walla walla onions and gruyere
Asparagus sauteed with Walla walla onions and fresh garlic then mixed with eggs beaten and gruyere cheese then oven baked.
Rosemary red potatoes
Red potatoes, rosemary, fresh garlic and olive oil roasted. Served with sour cream.
Arugula salad with walnuts, cranberries and goat cheese
Fresh arugula tossed with walnuts, dried cranberries and goat cheese tossed with an orange juice, cider vinegar and olive oil dressing

Pan-fried Halibut with sweet corn salsa
Halibut marinated in a blend of lemon juice-shoyu-garlic-white pepper then pan-fried. Topped with a mixture of fresh white corn, tomatoes, mango, cilantro, fresh chili pepper, lime and fresh garlic.
Simmered quinoa tossed with olive oil, sea salt, fresh ground black pepper
Romaine Radicchio Salad with shaved Asiago
Romaine lettuce and radicchio tossed with a ume plum vinegar, maple syrup, tamari, olive oil dressing topped with shaved Asiago cheese
Berry salad with fresh whipped cream
Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries tossed and topped with whipped heavy cream

Apricot-glazed chicken breast
Chicken breast coated with potato flour, browned in a pan with olive oil. Coated with an apricot jam-mirin-tamari sauce and simmered.
Cider glazed Roasted Root Vegetables
Parsnip, rutabaga and carrot coated with a blend of apple cider vinegar, olive oil, sucanat then oven roasted.
Kale and Rhubarb Sauté
De-stemmed kale and rhubarb sautéed in olive oil, fresh garlic and mirin, topped with raw cashews.
Maple Vanilla yogurt with pan-fried apples
Whole milk plain yogurt with maple syrup and whole vanilla bean extract with apples lightly pan-fried in canola oil.

Sweet Potato Lentil soup with foraged mushrooms
Lentils, sweet potatoes, chanterelle mushrooms, garlic and stock simmered. Served with dollop of plain yogurt.
Basmati Brown Rice
Simmered brown rice

Braised collards and beet greens
Beet greens, collards sautéed in olive oil and onions then braised in a blend of cooking sake and tamari.
Carmelized pears with ginger ice cream
Bosc pears broiled in a glaze of mirin, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter, served with a side of ginger ice cream.

Copyright 2009, Genevieve Sherrow.

What to Eat When You're Sick

This week I've been ill and haven't cooked much of anything. When I was ill as a kid, my mother used to cook up this soup with leeks, celery and root vegetables. Today, my first day up and out of bed, I attempted to emulate her recipe.

Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

Warming root vegetables, soothing leeks, and minerally dense sea vegetables will reverse any signs of cold or flu. Enjoy this soup on a cold, rainy Seattle afternoon.

2 tablespoons high quality unrefined, extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
4-5 cloves fresh garlic, minced

1 medium leek, chopped
1 medium parsnip, peeled and cubed
2 medium carrots, cut in discs
1 large rutabaga, peeled and cubed
1 cup of fresh or dried nori, sea lettuce, or bladderwrack, chopped coarsely
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock

Heat stock pot to medium high, add olive oil. Saute ginger and garlic for 1 minute. Add leeks and saute until glistening. Add carrot, parsnip and rutabaga and saute for 3 minutes. Add vegetable or chicken stock bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
Prep time: 40 minutes
Serves: 4-5
Copyright 2009, Genevieve Sherrow, Original Recipe.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Parsnips and Kale

Parsnip Sauté
1 large parsnip, peeled, cut into half moons
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 tablespoon mirin (optional)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon unrefined extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup Walla Walla onion, chopped
2 tablespoons green onion, chopped

Coat parsnip with agave, rice vinegar, mirin, salt and pepper. Let sit for 5 minutes. Heat sauté pan to medium high, then add olive oil. Saute onion until it becomes translucent. Add parsnip and sauté until golden brown and soft. Garnish with green onion.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Makes 2 servings
Copyright 2009, Genevieve Sherrow, Original Recipe.

Sake braised kale

2 tablespoons unrefined extra virgin olive oil
1 head of fresh kale (about 6 cups raw)
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
¼ cup cooking sake or mirin (Japanese rice wine)
Sea salt to taste

Wash kale thoroughly and de-stem leaves. Heat sauté pan to medium high, then add olive oil. Sauté kale until it reduces in size by one-half. Add ginger and garlic, stir for 1 minute. Add cooking sake and reduce heat to low.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Makes 2 servings
Copyright 2009, Genevieve Sherrow, Original Recipe.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Garbanzo beans

Garbanzos or chick peas are a staple food in the Mediterranean diet. These beans are nutrient powerhouses, minerally dense, high in protein, folate and essential fatty acids. This recipe transcends the standard olive oil, lemon, and tahini hummus. Yogurt facilitates a creamy texture and lime infuses acidity and balance.

Hummus with lime and yogurt
1 can no salt garbanzo beans
2-3 tablespoons unrefined extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lime
1 tablespoon whole milk plain yogurt
1/2-1 tablespoon raw sesame tahini
splash of balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon crushed black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder or fresh garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons water

Combine all ingredients except for the water in a food processor. After integration, add 1 tablespoon of water, mix again. If consistency of hummus is too thick add another tablespoon of water. Serve morning, noon or night with your favorite corn chips or dipping veggies.
Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Serves: 2-3

Copyright 2009, Genevieve Sherrow, Original Recipe.

Preserved Lemon Hummus
1 cup dried garbanzo beans (canned will do)
¼ cup lemon juice
4 cloves roasted garlic
1 ½ cloves garlic
3/8 cup sesame tahini
¼ cup & 1 ½ teaspoon olive oil
1 ½ teaspoon Tamari
¼ teaspoon of cayenne
1 ½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ cup water
1/8 preserved lemon

Soak and cook garbanzo beans. Put remaining ingredients in the food processor and blend until smooth. Season to taste.

Prep Time: 8 hours to soak beans, 10 minutes active time.
Cook Time: 1 ½ - 2 hours to cook beans

Serves: 4 to 6
Adapted from Spoonriver Restaurant, Minneapolis