I admit: Sometimes, when I’ve got deadline after deadline, I don’t eat as well as I should. Thankfully, Melina Hammer is back on the blog today sharing a recipe that will help get me back on track! —Anh-Minh
This recipe is a continuation, in a way, of the elemental eating created for the start of this year (with the Aromatic Poached Salmon recipe). Centering delicious eating around simple foods can be a challenge, but is hugely rewarding, if done well. With spring officially having arrived (what!?), the vibrant foods we’ll all soon have available don’t need much to make them shine. This kind of meal means we can all eat well, with carefully chosen ingredients that make for a special resonance together.
Added to this is my continued play with flavor superstars like anchovies, seaweed, and bottarga. I tackled anchovies a few years ago after vehemently hating them for years. At some undefined point, I realized I probably didn’t know what a good anchovy experience was and so started to explore. I’ve been in love for a good while, and I add anchovies to any foods where an extra punch of flavor seems like a good idea. (um, hello everyday) The secret is in using good quality anchovies, and the right proportions for the other flavors of whatever it is you’re making.
Same with the other umami stars. In an effort to demystify exotic (to me) ingredients, as well as to adapt them to my own cuisine preferences, here’s the scoop: After roasting my own seaweed for another project—so easy to do, it turns out—I’ve wanted to put it on everything. It’s like potato chips from the sea … So good. And good for you.
Bottarga is my newest foray into “weird food.” Bottarga is the cured egg pouch from mullet (or tuna), and is briny, tangy, and basically delightful. Like caviar but served shaved or grated—more fruit leather than jam, if that makes any sense. In the Mediterranean, bottarga is a traditional food, but it has also gained a widespread gourmet popularity thanks to chefs and foodies.
General rule of thumb with each of these flavor stars: A little goes a long way. You don’t need to be knocked out by these flavors, unless you like that type of thing. But, a little “Mmm … What is that??” as you eat, is a good thing. Taste a tiny bit of each. Get familiar. Then taste as you go, to season appropriate to your own preferences.
This tasty grain bowl can be eaten warm, but the nice thing about it is that it doesn’t have to. Each element can be cooked in advance and allowed to cool to room temperature, or refrigerated and then pulled from later. Which, because you didn’t have to sweat doing it all at once, makes the layers in color, texture, and flavor even better! Perfect for getting out to enjoy this much-anticipated spring.
Umami Grain Bowl
for the bowl
- 1 cup black rice
- 2 cups veg or chicken broth (use homemade for better flavor)
- 2 handfuls broccolini, woody ends of stems trimmed
- 2 heads radicchio, cut into wedges
- 1 cluster beech mushrooms, ends trimmed and separated into smaller clusters
- 2 farm eggs
- olive oil, for sautéing
- sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
for the vinaigrette
- 3-5 anchovies (buy jarred so you can see if they are still pink—a sign of freshness)
- 7 cloves roasted garlic (sometimes I roast heads of garlic, but this time around I bought a ready-made jar of roasted garlic to simplify)
- 1-2 tbsp sherry vinegar
- 1/3 cup good olive oil
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
- juice from half a lemon
- pinch red pepper flakes
- roasted seaweed, cut into thin strips
- Make a paste of the anchovies and roasted garlic in a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have one, use the flat side of a knife to flatten and smear each on a cutting board. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl. Add the mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, pepper flakes, parsley, and olive oil, and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Set aside.
- To cook the rice, pour the broth and rice in a saucepan. Heat on high to bring to a boil. Cover, turn heat to low, and simmer for a half hour or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice al dente. Remove from heat.
- Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil and then carefully lower in the eggs. At a gentle boil, cook the eggs for 6 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a bowl filled with ice water. When cool enough to handle, peel away their shells. If you’re assembling the bowl later, refrigerate the eggs after the ice bath, and wait to peel the eggs until that time. The cooked eggs will keep 5 days refrigerated.
- For the attractive vegetable piles nestled on top of the grain, I prepared each veg in separate sauté pans. You don’t have to for practicality’s sake, but if this presentation appeals to you, do the same.
- Over medium heat, sauté the mushrooms until tender and golden, about 5 minutes. A small sprinkle of sea salt and pepper is okay here, but keep in mind the salty-savory flavors you’ll be adding and hold back the usual salt.
- Even more briefly, sauté the broccolini in a little olive oil. Add a splash of remaining stock or water, just to soften the membranes a little. As soon as they have become shiny and bright green, remove the pan from the heat.
- Over medium-high heat, get the skillet nice and hot and hard sear the radicchio wedges in olive oil. Three minutes a side is a good starting point. Transfer to a serving platter.
- Toss the rice and vinaigrette together. Portion out the rice into bowls. Add a cluster of the mushrooms and some broccolini. The natural curve of the broccolini stems makes a perfect home for a half custardy 6-minute egg. Either allow people to add the radicchio to their plates table side (they are dramatic arranged on a plate for everyone to appreciate), or waive ceremony and nestle a couple wedges beside the other veg.
- At the table, Use a microplane to grate a little bottarga over the earthy mushrooms and bitter-sweet charred radicchio. Add a cluster of seaweed strips over top, and dig in. The sweetness of the broccolini, the custard egg, the flavorsome rice, and all the other flavors make for a punchy symphony that is incredibly satisfying.
P.S. If you’re looking for more great springtime recipes, I recently shot the dishes for Mark Bittman’s The New York Times feature on California produce. They’re as delicious as they are beautiful!