I’ve never been to Hawaii, not even back when the main ingredient in its national dish, poke (fish salad), was part of my diet. So now that poke shops are proliferating on the mainland, I have to confess that I don’t have a point of taste comparison when trying to think up a vegetarian version.
Thankfully, Honolulu-based food writer Martha Cheng has done the research for me, and in “The Poke Cookbook” (Clarkson Potter, 2017) she features a chapter of plant-based takes on the snack that use such ingredients as fiddlehead fern, tofu, mango, carrot and pineapple. But it was the combination of beets and macadamia nuts that I knew I’d try. The beets, ruby red and glistening, are a ringer for tuna, and another ingredient — wakame, a dried seaweed — brings the taste of the ocean. Vinegar, sesame oil, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes all do their thing, and the nuts add a dose of fat and protein to the mix.
My only tweak was to double the macadamias. If you’re not going to be eating tuna, and there are plenty of reasons for that, you deserve another indulgence.
Beet and Macadamia Poke
MAKE AHEAD: The poke can be refrigerated for up to 1 day; wait to top with the macadamias and scallions until just before serving.
Wakame, a dried sea vegetable, gives the dish a hint of ocean flavor. It is available at natural foods stores and at Whole Foods Markets as well as Asian markets.
Adapted from “The Poke Cookbook,” by Martha Cheng (Clarkson Potter, 2017).
• 3 medium stem-on beets (about 1 pound), scrubbed
• 1/4 cup dried wakame (optional; see headnote)
• 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions (green parts only)
• 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
• 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
• 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
• 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
• 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, or more as needed
• 1/4 to 1/2 cup coarsely chopped, toasted unsalted macadamia nuts (see headnote and NOTE)
Trim the beet stems, leaving about 1/2 inch intact. Place the beets in a metal steamer basket set in a saucepan filled with an inch of water. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat, then cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Steam until the beets are easily pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes. Uncover and let cool.
Meanwhile, if you are using the wakame, soak it in water until soft, about 5 minutes. Gently squeeze it dry, chop it and transfer to a medium bowl.
Trim off the ends of the cooled beets. Working under cool running water, rub off the beets’ skins and discard. (You might want to wear food-safe gloves to prevent staining your hands). Cut the peeled beets into 3/4-inch chunks, then add them to the wakame, or place in a stain-proof mixing bowl. Add most of the scallions (reserving some for garnish), and the vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes and salt. Fold gently until thoroughly combined. Taste, and add more salt, as needed.
Serve right away, or cover tightly and refrigerate for up to a day. Just before serving, sprinkle the poke with the reserved scallions and the macadamias.
NOTE: Toast the macadamia nuts on a small baking sheet in a 250-degree oven for about 10 minutes or until golden brown, shaking the pan so they brown evenly. Cool completely before using or storing.
Nutrition | Per serving (using 1/2 cup macadamia nuts): 192 calories, 3 g protein, 14 g carbohydrates, 15 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 357 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber, 8 g sugar