The old adage that one can have “too much of a good thing” is supported in spades by a phenomenon that is plaguing many waterways around the world. Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous are integral to the healthy functioning of marine ecosystems, but are often raised to unnaturally high levels by human activities such as agriculture, lawn-fertilization, and sewage treatment. This overloading of nutrients into a body of water is called eutrophication. This environmental affliction is unpleasant for both humans and animals alike, and can even have lethal effects. As a result of eutrophication, many waterways suffer from harmful (toxic) algal blooms as well as hypoxia: a low-oxygen state in which few organisms can survive.
How do we combat this menace? Limiting nutrients at the source is one strategy—for example, using less or organic fertilizers would reduce the amount of nutrient runoff associated with agriculture and lawn-care. A second strategy is to clean up the problem downstream by using up these excess nutrients through the cultivation of seaweed! There are many tasty varieties of sea vegetables that can thrive on the excess of nutrients found along our coastlines—these just need a little help from a knowledgeable seaweed farmer.
Sea Vegetable #3: Alaria
Many of the suggested recipes for this sea vegetable variety involved soups, so I decided to give it a try with a favorite recipe that I can whip together in under an hour using just pantry ingredients. In this context, alaria actually just tasted like kale, which I often add to the soup. However, alaria melded better with the texture of the other ingredients. Given my stated goal from the first post—to integrate sea vegetables into non-east Asian cuisine—I’d say that this experiment was a huge success!
Recipe: Alaria Soup (Slight modification of my Tomato-White Bean Soup)
2 Tbs. Olive Oil
Diced Onion (250-300 g)
2 cloves garlic
1 can (2 cups) broth (chicken or vegetable)
1 can of tomatoes (~800 g, diced)
1 can (~400 g) cannellini beans
1/2 cup orzo (90 g)*
salt & pepper to taste
1 bay leaf, pinch of thyme
One roll of dried alaria
2-3 slices of bacon, chopped into small pieces
Parmesan cheese to taste
Soak alaria roll ~10 minutes, separate layers**, and inspect for “hitchhikers”
Heat olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, (and bacon). Cook, stirring, for ~5 minutes.
Add broth, tomatoes, beans, orzo, (and bay leaf). Simmer for ~30 minutes.
(Sauté kale with olive oil and garlic to serve with the finished soup).
Remove bay leaf from soup. Season to taste with salt, pepper, (thyme, and parmesan).
*I added extra orzo to thicken the soup and make it into a bread topping as seen in the picture above.
**it seems small at first and then seems to infinitely expand as you keep separating it