Sea bean is the modern and more accessible name for salicornia – a crisp, salty succulent that grows in beach areas and salt marshes. Traditionally foraged, it is also cultivated and is found at farmer’s markets and grocery stores in the spring and summer months.
Sea beans can be eaten raw, blanched, boiled or fried. Blanching and boiling tend to reduce the salty bite of the beans. These are often used as additions to salads and paired with seafood.
I spied sea beans on a quick trot down the vegetable aisle of my local grocery and picked a few handfuls. On the fly, I gathered up some cultivated enoki mushrooms, a Chinese eggplant and a habanero pepper – all ingredients that seemed to compliment the idea of a composed salad featuring sea beans.
The preparation itself was simple. Sliced eggplant was seasoned, brushed with oil and roasted in the oven. The sea beans and mushrooms were marinated in a dressing of sesame seed oil and white vinegar before being arranged on serving plates with the roasted eggplant and a sprinkling of finely chopped habanero.
Since the sea beans in this preparation were served raw, the salty taste was definitely present. As mentioned previously, a few minutes of blanching can reduce the saltiness, but guard against cooking these too long, or the crunchy texture will be lost. This is a nice starter that serves two.
- 1 Chinese eggplant prepared as two-inch long slices
- 2 tablespoons of neutral oil such a canola
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Two to three handfuls of sea beans (salicornia)
- Enoki mushrooms trimmed
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1-1/2 tablespoons white wine or rice vinegar
- 1/2 habanero pepper very finely diced
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Toss sliced eggplant with 2 tablespoons of oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Arrange on a small baking sheet and roast in the oven for approximately 6 minutes, turning the slices over midway through the cooking process. Remove and let cool.
- Whisk together the sesame oil and vinegar.
- Place the sea beans in a small bowl and toss with 1/2 of the sesame and vinegar mixture. Add pepper to taste but do not add salt due to the high natural salt content of the sea beans.
- Place the enoki in a small bowl and toss with the remaining sesame and vinegar mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Marinate the sea beans and enoki for 10 minutes before serving. To serve, arrange the cooled eggplant, sea beans and enoki on a plate. Garnish with finely chopped habanero pepper.