A few times a year I’ll become obsessed with a particular dish from a particular restaurant. My appetite tends to be a tumultuous and fickle thing, and some days I’ll parade every food I can think of before my mental stomach and only to have each one met by nausea. It is then that my thoughts turn to the magic dish, whatever concoction it is that has become, not just an obsession, but somehow the only thing my body finds acceptable. Right now that panacea-on-a-plate is the absurdly named I Am Accepting Sushi Rice Bowl from a restaurant called Cafe Gratitude.
Cafe Gratitude is a kind of pricey, mostly raw, entirely vegan restaurant with three locations around the Bay Area. The general response around town to CG’s very particular aesthetic seems to be a mixture of disdain, confusion, and either worshipful or grudging appreciation of the food. Be that as it may, that singular rice bowl has become, for me, an addiction.
I crave this dish to the point that I really can’t be running off to spout affirmations and spend $10 every time I want a warm spoonful of nutty red rice with kale and avocado that feels in my mouth like the superpowered pinnacle of all that is healthy and nourishing. I even tried sneaking a look at the recipe given in the I Am Grateful cookbook, for sale at all CG retail outlets, but the recipe was quite clearly not the one used by the restaurant. Today I happened to come across a gorgeous post on 101 Cookbooks with a recipe for Poached Eggs Over Rice, and since this was almost what I wanted, but still not quite the thing, I was inspired to call the cafe and just ask them what’s in that bowl of Acceptance.
This turned out to lead to one of those magical, karmic CSA-box experiences. Rory over at CG very nicely looked up for me the components in the dressing, which was the heretofore missing piece. And so I realized I was going to have to make my reproduction without scallions, cucumber, avocado, and orange juice – and that’s a lot of flavor elements to lose. The avocado I was already planning to substitute with poached egg, but the orange juice was especially sad, since my palate immediately recognized OJ as vital to the brightness of the dish.
But when I headed off to see if I had any greens in my as-yet unpacked box, I found that not only did I have a lovely bunch of collards, but that this week’s box also brought two unexpected ingredients: a bunch of fat scallions and three navel oranges!
In short, this dish turned out amazing, easily equal to if not tastier than the original, and well able to satisfy those cravings with very little effort. And so from now on I think you’ll find that, if I’m going to be declaring aloud my general state of acceptance, I’m going to be doing it in my pajamas.
The recipe for the I Am DIY Rice Bowl (modified from the 101 Cookbooks recipe) can be found below the more… tag.
I Am DIY Rice Bowl
(with deep gratitude to 101 Cookbooks and Cafe Gratitude)
I know this recipe looks long, but it is incredibly simple!
Dressing (for lemon-ginger variation, see end of recipe):
4 T. orange juice (freshly squeezed if you can get it!)
1/4 t. salt
1 T. olive oil
1 T. tamari (wheat-free soy sauce)
1 T. rice vinegar
1/2 t. toasted sesame oil
1 T. olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 dried serrano chile, finely chopped
Pinch of salt
4 small garlic cloves, pressed or minced
2-3 tightly packed cups of greens (I used half collards and half purple kale)
2-3 cups cooked black Chinese “forbidden” rice (or other nutty rice – brown or red Bhutanese)
2 large or 3 small scallions, coarsely chopped
3 eggs (or 1 ripe avocado for a vegan version)
Toasted sesame seeds
Toasted nori (seaweed) cut into small pieces
To make the dressing: Stir together salt and orange juice and let sit a few minutes. Stir in olive oil, then add tamari, vinegar, and sesame oil. Set dressing aside.
To prepare the rice dish: Devein greens and slice into short, very thin strips. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat, then add in onion, salt and serrano chile. Cook, stirring, until onions just begin to brown. Add in garlic and greens, and cook, stirring, until greens wilt and become tender. (You may want to add a bit of water and cover the pan to steam the greens a little if they begin to brown or burn before they get tender.) Add in the cooked rice* and cook, stirring, until the rice is heated through. Add in the scallions and remove pan from heat. Stir in dressing. Cover to keep warm.
To poach the eggs: (There are a lot of different techniques for poaching eggs, mostly aimed at not getting traily bits of white all over the pot. I couldn’t be bothered, and so I just ignored those and the main body of the egg came out beautifully. Here’s what I did.) Fill a small pot with water and bring to a simmer. Crack an egg into a small bowl. Lower the bowl into the water and slide the egg out. Cook until the whites are opaque and then a bit longer than that to ensure everything is well cooked. The yolk is still runny at this point, so cook longer if you want a firmer yolk. Remove with a slotted spoon.
To assemble: Pile rice mixture in a bowl and gently top with a poached egg (or chunks of avocado). Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds and nori bits liberally on top. YUM!
*A note on cooking the rice: This was the first time I’d cooked with Chinese black “forbidden” rice, so I had to do a little research. It basically seemed as though you cook it like brown rice, so I did, in my food steamer. I ended up adding about 5 extra minutes to the cooking time, and then it came out perfectly. Be aware: This rice is NOT the same as black glutenous Thai rice, which is used to make sticky rice pudding and the like. That rice wouldn’t work for this dish. But another “toothy” rice, like short-grain brown rice or red Bhutanese, would be great.
April 7 Update – A variation on the dressing: I didn’t have any oranges left today, so I made a lemon-ginger dressing which was terrific as well. In place of the 4 T. of OJ, use 2 T. lemon juice, 2 T. water, 1 T. finely grated ginger with juices from grating, and sugar to taste (I used about 2 teaspoons).