Let's say you buy a new car. A red car. And suddenly, all you ever see around town are red cars. There are red cars on every street, in every parking lot. You realize your neighbor has a red car. That annoying co-worker has a red car. The new guy you're dating has a red car (yours is better, but that's okay). Every other car you pass on the highway? You guessed it. RED. Yes, now that you have a red car, suddenly the world is full of them - did they sprout up over night? Where did all these red cars come from?
Contrary to what it seems, all those red cars have always been there, you're just noticing them now. Instead of being just another car on the road, the red car now plays an integral role in your life. You have become aware of the red car. And once you are aware of anything, once something is on your radar, it changes how you view the world around you.
What do red cars have to do with food? Well, nothing really. But The Red Car Phenomenon - the fact that when you are aware of something, you just notice it more - applies to everything. I've especially noticed it in the realm of cookery. Now that I am rather well-versed in the world of whole foods, I can look through many of the books I've gathered along the way and suddenly see more recipes. Why? Put simply, I just know more about food these days. Instead of glazing over a recipe because I am not familiar with the ingredients, I am drawn in, tempted by new combinations of familiar foods that are now on my radar. There's no more "What's agar agar?" or "Where can I find that?" or "How do you say quinoa?". Instead, those perplexed questions are replaced with a confident curiosity. Inspiration replaces desperation. And suddenly, you start getting a whole lot more out of those cookbooks. It's like going to an art museum after taking your first art history survey class - suddenly, those paintings speak to you in a whole different way.
Yes, the more you know about food and preparation techniques, the more fun cooking becomes. You can sink into the sensual rhythm of cooking, relishing in the rich colors and textures, the aromas, the subtlety of flavor. It becomes fun. It becomes addictive. It can start to creep into your mind at all hours of the day, consuming your thoughts as you envision the wide palette of ingredients and possibilities. Cooking is like a drug, and cookbooks are full of temptation.
Because of this, I have started finding much more excitement in all those cookbooks I have sitting in my bookshelf. I will look through cookbooks I've had for years and find "new" recipes I've never even noticed. Sometimes, I'll find even find recipes for foods that I've been trying to create recipes for (like when I found the perfect recipe inspiration for my epic gluten free, soy free, vegan pumpkin pie) or find recipes nearly identical to things I've already created. Recipes using millet and amaranth and celery root and seaweeds are leaping off the page, surprising me at their presence. "Why wasn't I making this sooner?!" I ask myself sometimes. "I've been living with these recipes for YEARS and wasn't making them?! What the hell?" Just goes to show that there is knowledge everywhere, if you know where to look and have your eyes open to what you find.
Anyway, rewind to last night, the end to a totally shitty day that tested my patience and faith in the Universe. I wanted to do was disappear. So, I put on some vintage Bollywood music, brewed a hot cup of Dandy Blend, and cozied up on the couch with a stack of cookbooks looking for inspiration for my Christmas menu. As I was paging through The Voluptuous Vegan, I stumbled across a recipe I had never noticed before: Arame Salsa. I was stunned - I've had this book for years and years, and I'd never noticed it. Why? Probably because arame didn't enter my sphere of knowledge until about a year ago. Yes, this was a case of The Red Car Phenomenon. Anyway, after reading over the recipe, my mind had totally left Christmas menu research task. I was now fully consumed in brainstorming what to eat with this radically delicious sounding - and totally tomato-free - salsa.
If your aren't familiar with arame, here's a little primer. Arame is a sea vegetable a.k.a. seaweed that is traditionally used in Japanese cuisine. It is sold dried in packages at Asian markets and natural food stores, and looks like long, thin black brittle threads. Arame is especially high in calcium, iodine, iron, magnesium, and vitamin A, as well as being a good dietary source forc many other minerals. Like all seaweeds, arame is a good source of fiber and has naturally anti-microbial properties, as well as potentially curative properties for inflammatory conditions, worms and parasites, and maybe even tumors. Since arame has a mild flavor, it is a good introductory seaweed for sea vegetable newbies, and it can be prepared in a variety of ways, wonderful steamed, sauteed, added to soup, eaten in salads, or added to lacto-fermented vegetable mixtures.
I conveniently had all the necessary ingredients in my fridge and pantry, and decided to try it out tonight. So, I made a few small tweaks to the recipe, put it all together, and tasted it. Holy smokes, was it good! Tomato free salsa victory! The arame is cooked in apple juice/cider, giving it an addictively sweet flavor that is delightful, especially when mixed with onion, scallion, and garlic. I spooned it into a hallowed out, cooked Delicata squash; it was totally delicious.
Still hungry after my salsa-stuffed squash, I started eating more salsa with a spoon right out of the bowl. Seriously - awesome. I can't wait to eat the leftovers; it would be great served over cooked grains, scooped inside a sweet potato, eaten with chips/crackers/flatbreads, or scooped up with crispy endive leaves or celery sticks. I think that arame could be substituted with hijiki, another sea vegetable, if desired. This recipe will find its way through my kitchen more on a regular basis from now on, and I am totally making it for the next party I have. And not only is this salsa delicious, it is fat free, tomato free, vinegar free, and citrus free, unlike most other salsas out there! Totally brilliant.
adapted from The Voluptuous Vegan (original recipe posted here )
1 c dry arame seaweed (1 oz)
1/2 medium cucumber, diced (1 cup)
1 tsp vitamin C crystals dissolved in 2 T water 2 scallions, finely sliced (1/4 c) 1 c apple juice/cider - see note below for ACD friendly/low sugar options
1/2 c minced red onion
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro or parsley or 2 T dry 1-2 garlic cloves, minced pinch salt
optional: 1 jalapeño pepper, minced
optional: 1/2 inch piece ginger, grated
Soak the arame in water for 20 minutes.
Drain, then place in a medium skillet or saucepan with the apple cider.
Simmer, uncovered, until the cider has completely evaporated, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the arame to a bowl and let it sit for a few minutes to cool.
Add other ingredients and mix thoroughly.
For a lower sugar option, use a blend of 50/50 or 25/75 cider and water. Or a totally ACD friendly solution, boil 1 1/4 c water with 1 T of apple juice/cider or 1 tsp agave nectar/maple syrup/brown rice syrup for 10 minutes, then add the seaweed and cook for an additional 10 minutes as directed, or until all liquid is absorbed. According to The Candida Yeast Guidebook, sugars that have been cooked for 20 minutes in a large amount of water do not affect the yeast; many recipes in that book use small amounts of sweetener cooked for extended periods of time in all stages of the ACD. If this still seems too risky for you, make as directed in recipe above, but use 1 c water instead of juice with a little pinch of stevia for a slightly sweet flavor.