This recipe started with my discovery of the seaweed Himanthalia elongata, which is commonly known as “sea spaghetti” in English and “haricot de mer” in French. It’s found on the shores of the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the northeast Atlantic Ocean from Scandinavia to Portugal.
After seeing it in an Instagram friend’s feed (merci Frédéric!), I bought some myself without knowing what I would do with it. Then one day, I happened to have some leftover rice and made a sort of impromptu faux risotto by mixing in some white almond butter and adding a few forkfuls of the sea spaghetti. The combination was really nice, so I experimented further by making another risotto using the proper technique and adding mushrooms, onion and garlic.
What you see here is a perfected version with cherry tomatoes thrown in for color and a burst of fresh taste. The sea spaghetti contributes a “sea” flavor without being overly salty or fishy, and its notes pair very well with the garlic. I recommend getting this seaweed in a jar rather than the fresh kind that’s usually packed with a great deal of salt, as it can be challenging to get enough of the salt off.
By the way, which seas are the seven seas? Opinions vary (who knew?), but I freely admit here and now that the expression doesn’t really apply to this recipe, since sea spaghetti is not found on the shores of all that many seas. But it sounds catchy, doesn’t it? So let’s overlook that detail.
Risotto of the seven seas
- 3.5 cups (828 ml) low-salt or diluted vegetable broth
- half a medium onion
- 1 or 2 cloves garlic, to taste
- 7 oz (200 g) mushrooms, sliced
- olive oil
- 1 cup short-grain rice (arborio or “sushi rice”)
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons white almond butter or cashew butter
- 2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 3.5 oz (100 g) sea spaghetti seaweed (Himanthalia elongata), preferably from a jar rather than fresh (which can be too salty)
- handful cherry tomatoes
- herbs to garnish (parsley, basil or chives)
Begin by washing and slicing up your mushrooms and mincing your onion and garlic. In the ingredient list above I said 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, but the ones I had were really small so I used more than that.
Sauté the mushrooms, stirring occasionally, in a large skillet over medium heat. There’s no need to any oil because they will release juices as they cook.
While they’re cooking, prepare your vegetable broth. It should be warm or room temperature, not cold. You’ll be adding it to the rice in a later step. I recommend low-salt or diluted broth because the sea spaghetti will also add some saltiness, and with full-strength broth you could have too much salt in the dish.
Once the mushrooms have become soft (and shrunk quite a bit), add the onion. After the onions are translucent, throw in the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
Deglaze the mushroom mixture with a few tablespoons of white wine. Once the wine has been fully absorbed, transfer the mixture to another container and set aside.
Rinse the rice and add to the skillet to toast, stirring often. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil. Once the grains are a bit translucent and smell a bit toasty (without becoming browned), you can deglaze the rice with a bit more wine.
Begin adding the broth in small amounts, stirring often, allowing it to become absorbed by the rice each time before adding more. Eventually, the rice will plump up and become soft. It took about 25 minutes for me but could be a bit less or more for you. You might also end up with some extra unused broth (don’t be tempted to use it all if the rice is already done, as it could become mushy).
Mix the white pepper and nutritional yeast into the rice. Feel free to use more of the yeast than what’s specified – it adds a cheesy flavor so it just depends how much of that you want.
Now incorporate the white almond butter or cashew butter (you want a light-colored nut butter here). It should be runny – if not, mix in some warm water to dilute it before adding it to the rice. This will make the risotto nice and creamy.
Add the mushroom mixture and sea spaghetti and stir gently to incorporate them into the risotto, taking care not to break up the seaweed too much. Cook for a few minutes more to ensure that everything is warm (the sea spaghetti doesn’t really need cooking per se, just warming up).
Last but not least, cut some cherry tomatoes into quarters and stir them carefully into the risotto without smooshing them too much, then turn off the heat. The heat of the risotto will warm up the tomatoes sufficiently.
I couldn’t decide whether to serve it in a regular old bowl or my new Bordallo Pinheiro cabbage-leaf serving dish. So here are both!
However you opt to plate it, this is one delicious risotto. I hope you try it!