Nov 10, 2013

The Other Asparagus... SEA ASPARAGUS!

Fresh Hawaiian Sea Asparagus
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There is another asparagus called Sea Asparagus. It grows on shorelines and in marshes across North America, as well as in Great Britain and parts of Western Europe. It also is grown hydroponically here in Hawaii, in Kahuku on the North Shore of the Island of Oahu by Marine Agrifuture. Salicornia virginica, or sea asparagus, is a distant relative of beets and spinach, however it doesn't taste like either. It has a crisp texture and salty flavor and tastes of the sea. Sea Asparagus look like delicate miniature asparagus, and is teeming with nutrients. Because it is very salty, it needs to be soaked in cold water before eating.

Traditionally, Sea Asparagus is a vegetable that is served with fish. Here is Hawaii, we blanched them and use them in salads, steam them and toss them with butter and serve them with cold smoked tuna, or we serve them with sushi, or pickle them. Note: Sea Asparagus should be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap if not used immediately. It will keep in the vegetable compartment for no longer than 3 days. 

Today I bought Sea Asparagus from a vendor at our farmers market here on Moloka'i, and have put together several recipes for you to enjoy.

Sea Asparagus Recipes:
Ahi Poke with Sea Asparagus
Ingredients:
4 ounces fresh sea asparagus, blanched*
1 pound fresh ahi steaks, cut into cubed, bite-size pieces
1/4 cup soy sauce (shoyu)
1/4 cup chopped green onions (tops included)
1/4 cup chopped Maui onion (or yellow onion)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 chili pepper, cored, seeded and diced (optional)
sea salt, to taste
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Procedure:
*To blanch the sea asparagus, bring a pot of water to a boil and add the asparagus. Blanch for 30-40 seconds. Remove the sea asparagus and cool it in a bowl of ice water for 30 minutes. Mix all ingredients and chill in fridge for 1 hour before serving. Makes 4 servings.

Tomato & Sea Asparagus Salad
Ingredients:
2 cups blanched sea asparagus, drained*
4 medium or large tomatoes, sliced 1/4inch thick
1 small sweet Maui or red onion, julienned
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 tablespoon fresh, minced
1 teaspoon sugar

Procedure:
*To blanch the sea asparagus, bring a pot of water to a boil and add the asparagus. Blanch for 30-40 seconds. Remove the sea asparagus and cool it in a bowl of ice water for 30 minutes. Mix all ingredients and chill in fridge for 1 hour. Makes 4 servings.

Sunomono with Sea Asparagus
Sunomono is a Japanese word meaning vinegared dishes, usually marinated vegetables, and is served as a side dish to go with various Japanese-style dishes.

Ingredients:
4 ounces fresh sea asparagus
5 to 6 ounces Japanese saifun noodles or vermicelli noodles
1 medium size Japanese cucumber
roasted sesame seeds for garnish

Ingredients for dressing:
6 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons tamari sauce
1 to 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Procedure:
Blanch the sea asparagus in boiling water for 30-40 seconds, plunge into ice water. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Cook the noodles in boiling water until just tender. Rinse in cold water, drain and transfer to medium bowl.

In a small bowl, stir the dressing ingredients. Toss, cover and chill the noodles with the dressing.

Peel and seed (cut lengthwise and scoop out seeds with a spoon) the cucumber, chop into small moon shaped slices.

To serve, divide noodles into 4 or 5 serving bowls and arrange the cucumber and sea asparagus on top. Lightly sprinkle with sesame seeds. Makes 4-6 servings.

Pickled Sea Asparagus
Ingredients:
3 pounds fresh sea asparagus
1 tablespoon pickling spice
whole dried red chilies
3 1/2 cups white vinegar
3 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
3-5 garlic cloves

Procedure:
Place spices and 3 to 5 peeled cloves of garlic in each sterilized jar. Clean and soak sea asparagus for 1 hour in cold water (to leach the salt away). Drain; chop into 2- to 3-inch lengths and pack fairly tightly into the jars.

Bring vinegar, water and sugar to boil and simmer 15 minutes. Pour hot solution over sea asparagus, leaving l/2 inch headroom. Seal jars and process in hot water bath for 15 minutes. Makes about 10 pints.

Note: The asparagus is pickled after a couple of days, but gets better the longer it keeps.
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