Happy Meatless Monday! During the month of April Jessica Perlaza, Chicago native and author of the book HIBERNATE, will share with you easy vegetarian recipes inspired by her journeys in Korea. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!
By Jessica Perlaza
When I don’t feel like making dinner a big production, I often throw together some rendition of my favorite Korean dish. Bibimbap literally means “mixed rice” and it is a fantastic way to experiment with spring veggies… or empty out your fridge. This Korean rice bowl is traditionally made with zucchini, spinach mushrooms, bean sprouts and a few exotic roots, neatly layered over rice, smothered in chili paste and topped with an egg. Its rainbow of colors represent the colors in nature and, according to the Institute for Traditional Korean Food, each color represents and supports a particular organ in the body, making bibimbap a perfectly balanced meal. This very traditional style of bibimbap can be found in nearly every Korean restaurant and is so tasty just as it is. But why stop there?
Be adventurous and use whatever you’ve got in the kitchen – spring greens, carrots, bell pepper, tofu, beans… you get the point. Top with tofu, some toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds, a drizzle of sesame oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Hearty, healthy, beautiful and easy! If you are a traditionalist and can tolerate spice, pick up some Korean chili paste (gochujang) at your local Asian market and mix away. You can also try doenjang, a salty fermented soybean paste, much like Japan’s miso. But since it’s spring, I used an herby cilantro yogurt dressing this time and it was lovely.
I always cook a pot of rice in the morning while sipping my tea and checking emails. Once you’ve got the rice, it’s easy to throw together a quick, healthy meal when hunger strikes.
In a medium pot, measure one and a half cups of brown rice. You can add a handful of black rice which will give you purple rice! Such a beautiful surprise. Rinse the rice in the pot using your hands to swish it around. Carefully pour off the water and repeat. Add three cups of fresh water and a pinch of salt to the rice and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low heat until all the water is absorbed, about 40 minutes.
Spring Bibimbap with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce
for the sauce…
a bundle of cilantro (with stems), finely chopped
a cup of plain unsweetened yogurt (homemade is best!)
a clove of garlic, finely chopped
juice of half a lemon
a pinch of sea salt
a pinch of chili powder
combine the above ingredients in a small container or jar. keep leftover yogurt sauce in the fridge for up to three days.
for the bowl…
3 cups of dark leafy greens (chard, spinach, kale), washed well
a drizzle of olive oil
a half a block of firm tofu, cut into bite-sized cubes
a handful of pumpkin seeds
2 cups of spring greens, washed well and roughly chopped (Explore some new greens at the farmer’s market. Try arugula, escarole or any of the lettuces)
3 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the dark leafy greens for just a minute until they wilt and become bright green. Rinse under cold water, give them a rough chop and set aside.
In a dry pan, toast the pumpkin seeds for just a minute or two and set aside. Drizzle a little olive oil in the same pan and cook the tofu until heated through and browned a bit. Give it a gentle toss to brown the other side and remove from heat.
Spoon some warm rice into a big bowl. Top with the wilted greens, tofu, spring greens, scallions and seeds. Drizzle generously with cilantro yogurt sauce and mix.
Introducing Jessica: “I’m a teacher, home cook and advocate for the simple things in life. More than three years ago, my husband and I bid farewell to the big city of Chicago and the urban sprawl of Orlando to live in a small village in the Korean countryside. I was raised on mac n’ cheese and fried fish sticks but, through much trial and error, I eventually learned to treat myself and my body better. My kitchen is now full of fresh, whole foods that nourish me – body, mind and spirit.
My recent project as the co-author of The Kitchens of Pinch and Dash – a self-published quarterly cookzine – has brought me great joy in allowing me to spread the word of good food with a greater reach. Nestled in its pages you will find recipes (all vegan and gluten-free), photos and stories inspired by the seasons that influence the way I eat and live.” Read more…