This is the recipe that made my husband fall in love with brown rice. Over and over again he would turn up his nose at brown rice and whole wheat bread and I would try to accommodate him as much as I could. But then I found this recipe by Heidi Swanson ( a favorite blogger of mine) and I decided to make this as is, except making chicken instead of tofu. He'll never be a vegetarian, but I'm so thankful he is open to trying new things and eating healthy foods. Like this dish, for instance. It's short grain brown rice tossed in a citrus-soy dressing, with toasted sheets of nori and toasted sesame seeds, asparagus and avocado. All the delicious Asian flavors I love, without the hefty price tag of actual sushi.
I've been craving Asian-style food a lot lately. Something about the combination of salty-sweet and nutty sesame, or the fragrant heat of ginger and the clean, straightforward style of Japanese cooking in particular has really made my culinary heart beat faster. I'm so intrigued by miso as a cooking ingredient, not just something to make soup from. All I want to eat lately are soba noodles, seared tofu in soy sauce, green onions, ginger-flecked stir-fries and lots of vegetables. It must be getting close to summer.
Unable to find just plain short-grain brown rice, I used this brand of rice blends, which I happen to love. It's not nearly as colorful once it's cooked, but the texture is chewy and the flavor is nutty, and that's exactly why I love brown rice. The fact that it's covered with a dressing made from lemon and orange juices, rice vinegar and soy sauce gives it a big boost in flavor. If you are someone who has never been enamored of rice, this will make you want to shovel it in, I promise!
Assembling this bowl of goodness is so easy. While the rice cooks, you can sear the chicken (or tofu) and cook the asparagus. Then toast the nori sheet and chop it to resemble little seaweed croutons. Chop or slice the avocado and then toss everything in a bowl and start eating. This keeps very well for lunch the next day, although you might want to reserve some avocado in a separate container with some lemon juice to coat it, so it doesn't turn brown. But even if it does, it will be delicious. Just close your eyes.
If you haven't done so yet, I encourage you to check out Heidi's blog, 101 Cookbooks and get your hands on her gorgeous cookbooks, Super Natural Cooking and Super Natural Everyday. Her recipes are simple and delicious and her photography is what I aspire to create myself. It's inviting and inspiring and makes me want to eat whatever it is she's suggesting that day. Her recipes are inspired by fresh ingredients along with spices and herbs used in Mediterranean, Asian and Latin American cuisines. That's the kind of food that makes me want to keep cooking and experimenting and exploring. It's never boing, it's never bland. It's what I want for dinner.
minimally adapted from Super Natural Cooking
Zest and juice of 1 orange
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 T. tamari soy sauce
1/2 t. toasted sesame oil
3 skinless boneless chicken breasts, sliced in thin strips
For rice and vegetables:
2 c. short-grain brown rice
3 1/2 c. water
2 t. sea salt
2 4"-square sheets nori
6 oz. firm tofu (or just use chicken), patted dry, cut into slabs and seared in a hot skillet, then sliced in
1 bunch asparagus, woody ends chopped off
4 green onions, chopped
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, sliced thin
3 T. toasted sesame seeds
Zest and juice of 1 orange
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
2 T. natural cane sugar
2 T. shoyu sauce (I used tamari here, too)
2 T. brown rice vinegar ( I used white rice vinegar)
Rinse and drain rice a couple of times. Combine rice, water and salt in a saucepan heat to boiling. Lower heat, cover and simmer gently until water is absorbed, 45 minutes.
In a shallow dish, like a pie plate (glass), combine citrus juices, zests, soy sauce, oil and chicken. Toss a few times to coat and marinate about 30 minutes. Heat a swirl of canola oil in a large skillet and let it get hot. When it starts to shimmer, add about a third of the chicken and let it get browned, which will take about 2 minutes per side. When they feel firm, take them out of the pan and place on a plate. Repeat with rest of chicken.
To cook asparagus, heat a saucepan of water to boiling. Add salt and asparagus and cook 4-5 minutes (depending on how thin/thick your asparagus is). Drain in a colander and then plunge into an ice water bath to cool immediately. Pat dry.
To make dressing, place zests in a small bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan, combine juices and sugar and heat to boiling. Cook 1-2 minutes and stir to dissolve sugar. Add soy sauce and vinegar and bring back to a boil and cook a few minutes more, until slightly thickened. Take pan off heat and add zests.
To toast nori, heat a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, place a sheet of nori in skillet and heat a minute or two, until it feels hot to the touch. Flip it over and toast other side another minute or two. Place on a work surface and cut into strips. Cut these strips into squares.
When rice is done, stir 1/3 c. dressing into rice and stir to blend. Add more dressing if you like. Scoop rice into bowls and sprinkle with nori and sesame seeds. Add tofu/chicken, sliced green onions, avocado and asparagus.