Versatility is what makes the concept of bowls so appealing, says Volger. Simply gathering leftover greens, grains, and protein can lead to a meal he describes as “more than the sum of its parts.”
“Bowls give you a great way to incorporate seasonality into what you cook,” Volger told us at the launch party for Bowl at Haven’s Kitchen in New York City, where guests were treated to versatile fare like make-your-own bibimbap and ramen stations. “Especially in the spring, you can just go to the farmer’s market and let it guide you.”
But Bowl is about far more than making delicious meals out of the healthy scraps in your fridge—though on most weeknights that sounds just about perfect.
Volger is super passionate about traditional noodle and rice bowls (like ramen and bibimbap), dishes loaded with healthy ingredients from mushroom and seaweed to fermented food faves miso and kimchi, along with spring veggies.
Keep reading for two of Volger’s favorite springtime recipes, full of seasonal produce and flavors: Spring Ramen and Spring Bibimbap.
This bowl features juicy sweet snap peas and the delicate, sharp flavor of shaved raw asparagus in a light broth that’s brightened with lemon zest and fresh ginger. It also incorporates a streamlined kombu-soaking step, so that the dashi doesn’t need to be prepared in advance.
8 ounces asparagus
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
2 plump garlic cloves, smashed
9 cups water
Four 2-inch squares kombu seaweed
2 tablespoons light-colored miso paste
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 ounces sugar snap peas
8 ounces dried or 12 ounces fresh ramen noodles
Two 2-inch squares toasted nori
4 large boiled eggs, molten or firm yolks (optional)
4 pinches of freshly grated lemon zest
Pounded ginger pulp or freshly grated ginger, to taste
1 cup frizzled scallions
Toasted sesame oil, for garnish
Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus and set the top parts aside. Combine the tough asparagus ends, mushrooms, garlic, and water in a stockpot or saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the kombu, remove from the heat, and let stand for 30 minutes. Strain out and discard the solids and return the broth to the stockpot.
In a tall glass or measuring cup, or the plastic cup that usually comes with an immersion blender, combine the miso and a ladleful of the hot broth. Puree thoroughly with an immersion blender until smooth. (Alternatively, puree in a blender.) Pour the mixture into the stockpot with the rest of the broth and bring to a bare simmer. Add the salt and taste, adding more salt as necessary. Keep covered over low heat until ready to serve.
Use a vegetable peeler to shave the asparagus spears into ribbons. It’s easiest to do this by laying them flat on a cutting board, and using a Y peeler.
Bring another saucepan of salted water to boil and prepare an ice bath. Remove the fibrous strings from the snap peas: Pinch one end and pull along the straight edge of the pea as if it’s a zipper. Once the water comes to a boil, add the snap peas and blanch for 90 seconds. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the peas to the ice bath. Reserve the boiling water.
Add the noodles to the boiling water, in a strainer basket or the pasta insert that comes with your stockpot, if you have one, and cook until tender, usually 4 to 7 minutes for dried, (or according to the package instructions), or 60 to 90 seconds for fresh. Lift out the noodles, reserving the cooking water and rinse the noodles thoroughly under cold running water in order to remove excess starch. Quickly dunk them back into the hot water to reheat. Divide among four bowls.
Just before serving, wave the nori squares over the flame of a gas burner a few times, until the corners curl and they turn crisp, or roast under a broiler, flipping periodically. Slice into thin strips with a chef ’s knife, or crumble with your fingers.
Arrange the shaved asparagus, snap peas, and egg halves, if using, over the noodles in each bowl. Add a pinch of lemon zest and a scant teaspoon of ginger pulp or a few gratings of ginger to each bowl, then cover with the piping hot broth. Divide the frizzled scallions on top, garnish each serving with a few drops of sesame oil and the nori, and serve immediately.
Frizzled Shallots or Scallions
Makes about 1/2 cup
Crispy, shallow-fried wisps of shallot or scallion are a perfect condiment to most any dish in this book, lending a burst of salty crunch. Since they don’t retain their crispiness for more than a few hours, don’t prepare them too far in advance. But if you make them the first step in your cooking, you’ll be left with a shallot- or scallion-scented oil that can be strained and repurposed in other elements of the meal. Cutting the shallots into uniformly thin rings is important so that they all cook at the same rate. A mandoline is the tool to use.
3 medium shallots, or 1/2 bunch scallions
Fine sea salt
If using shallots, peel, then slice into very thin rings using a mandoline.
If using scallions, trim the ends off the scallions, then cut into 2- to 3-inch lengths. Cut each piece in half lengthwise. Lay the flat surface down on the cutting board and use a sharp knife to cut these segments into thin matchsticks.
Heat 1/2 inch of oil in a small skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Test the temperature by adding a piece of shallot or scallion—it should sizzle on contact. Add the vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, until reddish brown all over, 6 to 12 minutes. Watch closely, as they can quickly burn toward the end.
Use a spider skimmer or slotted spoon to transfer them to a paper towel–lined plate. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and let cool completely. Use within a few hours.
To save and repurpose the oil, strain it into a clean container through a few layers of cheesecloth to catch any solids. The oil can be kept for up to 1 week.
Kimchi can be made and eaten any time of the year, but I really crave it in the spring. In this recipe, the kimchi and assorted quick-pickled vegetables are the dominant flavors, making a bright-tasting, tangy bowl. Pickling chard stems is a great way to use them up—they’ll add bits of celery-like crunch, and using rainbow chard means lots of extra color, too. The pickled components and the sautéed chard both keep well, meaning that they can be made in advance or packed up as good leftovers. Let the toppings come to room temperature before serving, so that they don’t cool down the bowl drastically when you stir all the ingredients together.
2 bunches Swiss chard (1 to 1 1/2 pounds)
1 big Kirby cucumber or half of a conventional cucumber
1 medium carrot, peeled
6 small radishes
1 Tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp plus 1 pinch of fine sea salt
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 to 2 Tbsp neutral-tasting oil
1 to 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp toasted or black sesame seeds
5 cups cooked white or brown rice, or mixed grains, freshly cooked if skipping the rice-crisping step
Two 2-inch squares toasted nori
2 cups chopped Napa cabbage or Bok Choy
Kimchi, preferably homemade
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
Gochujang sauce or sriracha, for Serving
Trim the stems from the Swiss chard. Cut or tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Reserve half of stems for another use or discard them. Slice the remaining stems into 2-inch lengths, and then into halves, quarters, or eighths to make uniform matchsticks and transfer them to a medium bowl.
Slice the cucumber into 1/2-inch-thick rounds, then stack them up and slice into matchsticks. Slice the carrot into thin (less than 1/4-inch) rounds. Slice the radishes into thinnest possible rounds. Add the vegetables to the bowl with the chard stems. Toss with the sugar and 3/4 teaspoon of the salt and let stand as you prepare the rest of the meal. Just before serving, rinse and drain the veggies, blot dry with a clean towel, and toss with the rice vinegar.
Meanwhile, place a skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon neutral-tasting oil. Using tongs, add the Swiss chard leaves in increments, adding more as each batch cooks down. Add a big pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently with the tongs for 3 to 5 minutes, until wilted and the pan appears mostly dry. Remove from the heat and gather up the greens to one side of the pan with a spatula. Holding the chard in place and gently squeezing, tilt the pan over the sink and pour off any excess liquid. (You can do this in a colander if you’re worried about accidently dumping the greens into the sink.) Place the chard in a bowl and stir in 1 teaspoon sesame oil and the sesame seeds. Wipe out the skillet.
To make crispy-base bibimbap rice (optional): Just before serving, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon neutral-tasting oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Press the rice into the skillet, making a thick cake. Let cook without disturbing for 4 to 5 minutes, until a golden brown crust forms on the bottom of the rice.
Wave the nori squares over the flame of a gas burner a few times, until the corners curl and they turn crisp, or roast under a broiler, flipping periodically. Slice into thin strips with a chef’s knife, or crumble with your fingers.
To serve, use a spatula to scoop out the rice and divide it among four bowls, ensuring that everyone gets some of the crispy part. Top with the Swiss chard, kimchi, and avocado, then use a slotted spoon to add the pickled vegetables to the bowls. Garnish with the nori and serve immediately, passing the gochujang sauce at the table.
Makes about 1/2 cup
Gochujang has endless applications in marinades, dipping sauces, dressings, and spreads, and I always want it when I eat bibimbap. Asian markets and well-stocked supermarkets carry bottled gochujang sauces, but making your own is easy. This quick sauce serves to amplify the flavors of the gochujang, adding a bit more tang and sweetness. The other store-bought option is sriracha.
1/4 cup gochujang
1 Tbsp honey
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp brown rice vinegar
1 to 2 Tbsp water
Whisk together the gochujang, honey, oil, vinegar, and 1 tablespoon water. Add additional water to thin until you have a sauce that’s a little bit thinner than glue. Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, the sauce will keep for at least 1 week.
You might also want to check out these 6 delicious and cool ways to use miso (a fermented food fave), and these reader-approved healthy dinners for busy weeknights…
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