Kelp, Help!

Kelp, an edible seaweed (also called konbu or kombu) is a staple of Japanese cuisine, and for good reason. Not only is kelp chock-full of nutrients and vitamins, but it packs tons of umami flavor, says Hiroko Shimbo, chef and author of the IACP award-winning cookbook Hiroko’s American Kitchen.

In Japanese, the meaning of umami, that elusive fifth flavor, approximates to “delicious.” And kelp’s umami flavor “to me tastes the ‘cleanest,'” says Shimbo.

Shimbo recommends using kelp stock in place of chicken stock or water as the base for soups or as a braising liquid. The next time you make chicken soup, try this: simmer your leftover roast organic chicken in kelp stock instead of chicken stock or water, and you’ll have some of the richest, most nourishing, and most savory soups you’ve ever tasted.

Kelp stock is easy to make and keep on hand, as you’ll see in Shimbo’s recipe here. Best of all the chlorophyll-filled kelp is jampacked with nutrients, including vitamins B, C, and E, soluble and insoluble fiber, plus iodine, calcium, and magnesium—a soulful spoonful to say the least.

Clean Plates bonus: Kelp stock will give extra oomph to your vegetable soups, too. For a recent demo at the Greenmarket, Shimbo improvised a beet, miso, and kelp soup, recipe here. “Some people said ‘Oh, I don’t like miso,’ and some said, ‘I don’t like beets,’ but when they tasted this soup, they all said, ‘Wow-wow.’” We bet you will, too.