One solution to inevitable oatmeal fatigue: brown rice. The gluten-free grain is rich in proteins, thiamine, calcium, magnesium, fiber, and potassium—and it's also one of the key ingredients on the all-day menu at Sqirl, the buzziest breakfast and lunch spot in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake ‘hood. (You know, the one on Virgil with the perpetual line out the door.) Chef and founder Jessica Koslow has a serious reputation for putting genius twists on plant-based comfort dishes, and she’s giving up her best recipes in her new cookbook, Everything I Want To Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking.
Go to Sqirl during peak time, and just about every table will probably have one of Koslow’s brown-rice dishes on it—most likely the sweet Brown Rice Porridge or the savory Sorrel Pesto Rice Bowl. Both are filling without putting you into a carb coma, and each was intentionally designed to be customized in a near-countless number of ways, meaning you can make them with pretty much whatever you have on hand in the kitchen.
“I live in LA, where everyone is known to be obsessively health-conscious and where dietary restrictions are the norm,” explains Koslow, who's opening a second restaurant next year, this time on the westside. (Go on, take a second to do your happy dance.) “I have to constantly think about ways to modify dishes for certain diets, which in a way has made me a better, more adaptable cook. Throughout this book, I provide notes that show how just about any dish can be modified for specific tastes and dietary needs. Similarly, I’ve included tips on how to change dishes depending on which vegetables look best at the market.”
So next time you make a grain bowl for dinner (like, tonight?), buy extra rice—you’ll definitely want to have some the next morning.
Keep reading for two crowd-pleasing brown rice breakfast recipes inspired by signature dishes at LA's Sqirl.
Sorrel Pesto Rice Bowl
Yields 6 servings
"If I took this dish off the menu, I’m pretty sure we’d close," writes Koslow. "It has become the most iconic dish at Sqirl, even though you probably don’t think of sorrel [a tangy herb] and preserved lemons as obvious breakfast foods. This dish succeeding is like when the horse that no one bet on ends up winning the Kentucky Derby. At first nobody even knew it was in the race. Then, all of a sudden, the long shot is ahead by leaps and bounds, and even its trainer looks confused."
3 cups medium-grain brown rice, preferably Kokuho Rose
Fine sea salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup lightly packed kale leaves (stems removed)
2 cups lightly packed chopped sorrel leaves
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill, plus more for serving
1 preserved Meyer lemon (recipe in book or store-bought), flesh removed, peel finely chopped
2 to 4 small watermelon radishes, very thinly sliced
1/4 cup jalapeño hot sauce (recipe in book)
3/4 cup crumbled sheep’s-milk feta
6 poached eggs
Fleur de sel
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Boil the rice in plenty of salted water until it’s tender, 30 to 45 minutes. Drain and let cool.
2. Meanwhile, make the sorrel pesto: In a blender or food processor, combine 1/2 cup of the oil, kale, sorrel, and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice. Blend until smooth, stopping and scraping down the sides as needed. Season with salt to taste.
3. In a large bowl, toss the rice with the dill, preserved lemon peel, 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice, and the pesto. Taste and add a bit more salt, if needed.
4. In a small bowl, toss the radish with the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice, the remaining 2 teaspoon oil, and a pinch of salt. Set aside to marinate for a few minutes, until the radish is pliable and tender.
5. To serve, divide the rice among six bowls. Spoon a line of hot sauce across the rice. Arrange a little clump of feta on one side and a rosette of radish slices on the other side. Set a poached egg in the middle of each bowl and season it with fleur de sel and black pepper. Garnish with a tiny sprig or two of dill.
Note: Think of this rice bowl as a solid base for you to build upon. Don’t like poached eggs? Leave them out. Make it a meat lovers’ by adding bacon and breakfast sausage. Or go the vegan route and substitute kale for the feta and eggs. We like to toss the kale in our Southern-Style Fresh Cream and Black Mustard Dressing before adding it to the bowl.
Brown Rice Porridge
Yields about 4 cups; serves 4
"This is one of our OG dishes," Koslow writes. "We opened Sqirl during 'winter' in California, when the temperature hovers around 65°F and people tend to want something a little warmer for breakfast. It’s similar to the Danish dish risengrød, which is traditionally served with butter and cinnamon. Our kitchen crew actually loves to eat this porridge cold. My go-to is the vegan variation with granola on top, plus a friendly dollop of jam."
1. Rinse the rice in a fine-mesh sieve under cool water until the water runs clear. Transfer the rice to a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Pour in the milk and 4 cups water. Add the sugar and salt and stir to dissolve. Slice the 1/2 vanilla bean in half lengthwise and use the dull edge of your knife to scrape all the tiny black seeds into the pot. Drop in the scraped bean pod as well.
2. Bring to a boil. Watch the pot for the first few minutes; you want the liquid to boil but not boil over. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is soft, the porridge is thick, and most of the liquid has evaporated, 60 to 70 minutes. At first it will seem like way too much liquid for so little rice, but with time it will evaporate. As the porridge gets closer and closer to being done, you’ll need to stir more often to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
3. Before serving, fish out and discard the vanilla bean pod. Top each bowl of porridge with a handful of hazelnuts and a spoonful of jam.
4. You can serve this porridge hot or cold, depending on what sounds best to you. When you chill it in the fridge, a skin will form on top. Don’t be afraid of that, just mix it up. If you need to re-heat it and it’s a little too thick, add a splash of milk.
Note: Do not rinse the rice; the starch adds body. [For a vegan variation], use water in place of the milk. We always serve vegan brown rice porridge hot and add a splash of almond milk to it while it heats up.
How about a beauty drink with your breakfast? Here are three recipes from the new Moon Juice cookbook. Or if you prefer something a little sweeter in the a.m., try this Paleo pumpkin bread recipe from Lauren Conrad's nutritionist.
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