There is a certain type of microalgae that is considered to be one of the most nutritious and concentrated foods in nature. No other plant or food contains such nutrients as the deep-green-colored spirulina alga. What’s more, it contains no toxins whatsoever. It is sold at health food stores as a dietary supplement in powdered form or capsules. The nutritional value of spirulina is so significant that it is worth making an effort to integrate it into recipes.

Spirulina grows in Africa’s high-altitude mountain lakes, and serves as a basic food staple in many African tribes. During years of drought and hunger there are tribes that feed exclusively on it for many months. It also sustains astronauts during long sojourns in space. The nutrients in this microalga are especially concentrated. It’s hard to believe, but a single teaspoon of spirulina powder meets all your nutritional requirements for the whole day. Sixty percent of it is protein that is easily digestible. It contains all the essential amino acids the human body needs, as well as many provitamins, including beta-carotene in an amount no sweet potato can rival. It is rich in vitamins, including the essential spectrum of B vitamins.

Incorporating spirulina into cooking is a bit of a challenge because it colors dishes an unappetizing shade of green and its salty flavor predominates. After multiple tries, I have found that spirulina works best in conjunction with raw tahini, honey, dates and date syrup (silan). In combinations like these its disadvantage becomes an advantage: Its saltiness cuts the sweetness of the other ingredients and opens the door to a whole universe of healthy delicacies. Furthermore, combining spirulina with these natural sweeteners winds up neutralizing its sea smell.

Heating destroys some of the alga’s protein content so it is best incorporated into dishes that do not need to be heated. Besides the recipes recommended below, you can add spirulina powder to ice creams and shakes, use it to salt popcorn, enrich salads and enhance Asian dressings and spreads.

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Date & spirulina cookies

Ingredients (makes 45 cookies):

1 vacuum-pack of pitted dates(400 gr.)
3/4 cup (150gr.) Ethiopian tahini (well shaken), or regular raw tahini
1.5 tbsp. cognac, port or Grand Marnier
3 tbsp. boiling water
Zest 1 orange
2 tsp. spirulina (or more, to taste)
100 gr. shelled pecans, finely chopped

For coating:

Coconut oil
Sesame seeds, shredded coconut or cocoa powder
Pecan halves

Preparation

In a food processor with a steel blade pulse the dates, tahini, cognac and water. This process takes between five and 10 minutes. The mixture sometimes sticks to the sides, so pause periodically to scrape it into the middle with a spoon. When the mixture is smooth and soft, add the orange zest and spirulina, and pulse for another minute. Add the pecans and pulse briefly.

Transfer the dough to a bowl. Lightly grease your hands with coconut oil. Form the dough into balls, and roll them to coat with your choice of toppings: sesame seeds, shredded coconut or cocoa powder. For a more impressive presentation, press down to make a slight indentation in each cookie and stick a pecan half in the center. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Chocolate, spirulina & tahini truffles

Ingredients (makes 25-30 truffles):

10 petit buerre biscuits, whole wheat or regular (80 gr.), or 1 cup puffed quinoa
1/2 cup (75 gr.) raw almonds
1/4 cup (75 gr.) honey
1/4 cup (50 gr.) Ethiopian tahini (well shaken), or regular raw tahini
100 gr. bittersweet chocolate melted in a bain-marie or microwave oven
2 tbsp. heavy cream, or coconut cream
2 heaping tsp. spirulina powder (or more, to taste)

For coating:

1/2 cup sifted cocoa powder, or ground and sifted organic cocoa beans

Preparation

Pulverize the petit buerre biscuits in the small bowl of a food processor, and then transfer the crumbs to a medium-sized bowl. Pulverize the almonds in the small bowl of a food processor, and transfer them to the bowl with the crumbs. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix, and chill for 30 minutes. Form small balls and coat them with cocoa powder. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Spirulina tahini with cashews & herbs

Use this healthy and versatile spread for sandwiches with tzfatit cheese, fresh smoked turkey or roast beef; salads of roast vegetables like beets, cauliflower or summer squash; antipasti and roast eggplant; and as a dressing for fresh salad (diluting it first with a little lemon juice and olive oil).

Ingredients:

50 gr. raw cashews
2 tbsp. raw tahini, Ethiopian or regular made from whole sesame
4 tbsp. goat’s or sheep’s yogurt
1 tbsp. lemon juice
a little lemon zest
1 heaping tsp. spirulina powder
1/2 small garlic clove, whole
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
small bunch cilantro, parsley or basil, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp. (or a bit more) cold water

Preparation

In the small bowl of a food processor, pulverize the cashews into delicate crumbs. Add the rest of the ingredients and process into a smooth paste. Taste and adjust the seasonings.