No, they’re not really a bean, or a seaweed or a cactus, despite their appearance.
Sea Beans (genus Salicornia) go by many names, including glasswort, pickleweed, samphire and “Poor Man’s Asparagus.” Native to almost every continent, sea beans grow along the shoreline during the warmer months of the year, and the succulent branches of the sea bean make choice eating, either raw or cooked.
The taste of sea beans is quite mild, somewhat resembling that of asparagus or green beans, but their most distinctive trait is their crisp, almost crunchy texture and refreshing briny flavor. The first impression one gets when biting into sea beans is an intense burst of saltiness that fades quickly into a pleasantly tangy finish.
Sea beans store well and have a shelf life of up to 2 weeks. When very fresh, Sea Beans are as crunchy as snap peas. Even after a week or more in the fridge, slightly tired sea beans will perk up after a brief ice water bath.
Sea beans are wonderful when used raw in salads, but don’t neglect them as a cooked vegetable. After a brief blanching in boiling water, sea beans can be sauteed or used in a stir fry, just like green beans or asparagus. Try marinating them in your favorite vinaigrette for an unusual, crunchy pickle.
Don’t add salt when you’re cooking with sea beans. But do use them – their fresh, lively sea-salt flavor will add a spritely note to many dishes.
- 2 salmon fillets, preferably wild-caught, 4 – 6 oz each
- 3 oz soba noodles (Japanese buckwheat noodles)
- 2 cups lobster stock
- generous pinch of saffron
- 1/4 lb sea beans, trimmed
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp mirin
- 2 Tbsp salmon caviar (optional)
- 2 tsp snipped chives
Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees.
Cook the sea beans in a medium-sized pan of boiling water for about 1 minute, then drain in a colander. Plunge the sea beans immediately into a bowl of icewater to stop cooking. Drain, then set aside on paper towels to dry.
Put the soba noodles into a 2-quart saucepan of boiling water. When the water returns to a boil, add 1 cup of cold water. When the water returns to a boil, turn off the heat and allow to stand for a minute or two. Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse with cool water. Set aside.
Heat the lobster stock in a small saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to very low, add the saffron and simmer gently until the stock has been infused with the color and aroma of the saffron. Remove from heat, cover and set aside.
Note: Lobster stock or base can be readily purchased at many well-stocked grocery stores (and Asian markets), but if you have trouble finding it, you can substitute any good quality shellfish or seafood stock. Or do what we did – we made our own stock from lobster shells we had frozen last time we splurged on live Maine lobsters. We used a slow cooker to gently simmer the reserved lobster shells – legs, body, carapace and all – for 8 hours in a tightly covered slow cooker and the resulting stock was fantastic!
Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof saute pan over medium high heat until hot, but not smoking. Place the salmon in the pan, skin side up, and cook until the flesh is browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the fish over and spoon the soy sauce mixture evenly over each fillet. Transfer the pan to the pre-heated oven, and roast until the fish is barely cooked through, about 6 – 8 minutes.
Place a small mound of soba noodles in the center of 2 large shallow serving bowls. Center a piece of salmon on each mound of soba noodles. Arrange half of the sea beans around each portion. Gently ladle the lobster broth into the bowl. Top each piece of salmon with a tablespoon of salmon caviar, if using.
Garnish with a sprinkling of snipped chives.
One last thing: This dish may seem complicated, but it is actually very easy to prepare. Each of the various elements – the soba noodles, lobster stock, sea beans and salmon – can be prepared in advance and the dish can be assembled in a matter of minutes. It’s low in fat, easy to make and – most importantly – is incredibly delicious.
Many of the ingredients used in this recipe, and other recipes on the Earthy Delights Blog, can be purchased online at our retail website, Earthy.com. We welcome you to visit the Earthy.com website to view our extensive selection of hard-to-find ingredients and our complete Recipe Collection of over 500 tested recipes.
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