A Basic Grain Bowl

easy rice bowl_finalHere’s a quick recipe for a style of meal I’ve been eating a lot lately. It’s one of those “component” bowls, a cousin of a Korean bibimbap, that I make so often that I rarely think it merits a recipe. If I were to post a photo like the one above on Instagram and someone asked me for the recipe, it would seem sufficient to just say: Fried egg + soy-glazed tofu + sautéed greens + hot sauce, over mixed grains.

pan-fried tofu

But there are a few tricks and details that elevate a rice bowl from a patchy mishmash to the kind that that you’ll crave. As with most things in the kitchen, it comes down to details: tasting along the way, cooking with care, making sure that each individual component is something you’d want to eat on its own. Here I’m sharing my favorite method for tofu—the results are slightly sweet, a bit caramelized and crispy around the edges—and it requires no time pressing or marinading.

mixed grains

And while you could use whatever kind of grain you like as the base, mixed grains are a terrific way to add variety. Grains that have the same cooking time, like white rice and quinoa or millet, can be cooked together in the same pot using your normal ratios and cooking time. Otherwise, cook them separately and then fold together before dividing between serving bowls. This is a great way to stretch, or add variety, to leftover cooked grains.

grain bowl close crop

And to bring you in the loop for some of what’s been keeping me away from this blog (though let’s be real: I’ve never been great at keeping it updated): Thank you so much to everyone who donated to my Made by Lukas Barnraiser Campaign! It got funded, the rewards were sent out, and thanks to you we’re progressing along! Also, for the past many months two parters and I have been working on a print magazine project called Jarry. It’s focus is “men + food + men”—it’s a gay food magazine—and while we’ve filled up our first issue, due out this September, we’re beginning the search for Issue #2 contributors. Check out our Call for Submissions if you’re a writer, artist, recipe developer, or for any other reason wish to collaborate, and be sure to follow us in Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. We’ve got lots of fun stuff in the works!

A Basic Grain Bowl, with Sweet-Soy Tofu, Sauteéd Greens, and a Fried Egg

For 1 serving

1/2 bunch (about 4 ounces) tender greens like spinach, chard, or baby kale, tough stems removed
Neutral oil
2 slabs firm tofu, about 3/4-inches thick, blotted dry
4 pinches sugar
3 teaspoons soy sauce or tamari, divided
2 pinches cracked Sichuan peppercorns or a few grinds black pepper*
1 egg
1-1/2 cups cooked grains or mixed grains (see above)
Spoonful of chili paste or hot sauce, such as sriracha, sambal oelek, or something like Brooklyn Delhi Tomato Achaar
1 scallion, white and pale green parts, thinly sliced

*The Sichuan peppercorns are so much fun here—buy a bag of them from your nearest Asian grocer, store them in the freezer, and have cooling, numbing, tingly tastebud-trips whenever you please!

1. Prepare the greens: Wash the greens and drain them, but don’t bother spinning them dry. Heat a splash of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the greens and cook, tossing with tongs, until wilted but still vibrant in color, anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes, depending on how delicate our hearty they are. Use a rubber spatula to gather them into one edge of the skillet and press on them to extract as much liquid as you can. Standing over the sink and firmly holding the greens in place, pour off the extracted liquid. Set the greens aside.

2. Make the tofu: In a small skillet—nonstick or seasoned cast-iron, ideally—heat another splash of oil over medium-high heat. Gently add the tofu. Sprinkle each slab with a pinch of sugar and sear without disturbing, for 4-5 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom. Carefully flip them over, taking care not to tear if any bits are sticking to the pan and also to avoid splashing hot oil. Sprinkle each opposite side with remaining pinches of sugar, then drizzle with 2 teaspoons soy sauce. It will bubble up and thicken, and the tofu will soak it up. Cook for another 4-5 minutes, until browned on the bottoms. Flip them once more, sprinkle with the peppercorns, and cook for 1 more minute, then remove from the heat.

3. Fry the egg: You can do this however you please, but my preference is to heat a small skillet over medium-high heat, cover the base with a thin film of oil, then crack in the egg. Let cook until the outer parts of the white is set, about 1 minute, then drizzle with remaining 1 teaspoon soy sauce and cover the pan and cook until the rest of the white is set and the yolk is done to your liking, about 1 minute more for a runny yolk.

4. Assemble: Place the cooked grains in your serving bowl. Arrange the greens, tofu, and fried egg on top, then garnish with a spoonful of chili paste and the sliced scallion. Serve immediately.


One Reply to “A Basic Grain Bowl”

  1. Sweet! With such a straightforward recipe, I might not have that half a container of tofu spoiling in the refrigerator (^_^;)

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