Monday, January 18, 2016

Trendy Tasty Rice Bowl

We start every year pledging to be healthier and stronger and somehow a couple months in we find ourselves back living in bacon city. I am the cook. I am probably to blame. I fall back on what I know and, I guess, take the easy way to flavorful foods.
I can't say this year will be different but I was encouraged by a slew of interesting, grain based and vaguely Japanese recipes in the January issue of every food magazine I read so I decided a little pantry update and lighter cooking might just be in order -- for now.
Clearly there are more healthful and interesting grains but tonight, not yet ready to brave the grocery store, I started with rice -- plain old white rice. I love it. Then I went searching through the fridge for what might add color and texture.
A little bit of leftover broccoli, a little past it's prime, was quickly boiled and dressed with a tiny drizzle of sesame oil. Butternut squash, sitting on the counter since I didn't serve them for Christmas dinner, was sweet and gingery. I quickly fried several slices of ginger in canola oil, added in the squash cut in 1 1/2" pieces,  1/2 tsp of salt, 2 tsp of sugar (okay not quite the healthful star here but it is very Japanese) and 1/2 cup of water. I brought the liquid to a boil, covered the pot, reduced the heat to medium low and let the squash cook for about 10 minutes until tender.
With rice in the rice cooker, squash and broccoli cooked and set aside to be served room temperature on hot rice, I got a little more ambitious.
Every rice bowl (and Japanese meal) needs something pickled and a sauce. I quickly combined 1 cup rice wine vinegar, 2 TB of sugar, a pinch of salt and ground chile and let celery sticks and carrot rounds soak in that brine for about 1/2 hour. Easy. I'd have used a little lemon zest if I'd had any. For the sauce I mixed 1 TB tahini, 1 TB honey and 1 TB soy sauce with 1 tsp sesame oil. Ready. All that was left was to put it all together -- almost.
When it came time for dinner I cooked a couple eggs seasoned with soy sauce and a touch of sake into a flat omelette that I rolled and cut into slices over one side of the rice. Facing that a bit of sautéed chicken -- leftover legs and wings I tucked in the freezer after a holiday season Hainanese chicken dinner.
I wasn't too sure what to expect when James sat down to dinner. But, he seemed pleased by the lighter style and lighter plate.
It's fun to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. Not a bad way to cook in 2016.

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