In May the markets are flaunting their full green glory, overflowing with all kinds of leafy offerings—kale, chard, ramps, nettles! And what perfect timing for this green abundance, as our bodies feel a natural tug toward fresh, light foods that cleanse and detoxify. To treat your body to a good spring-cleaning, there’s no such thing as too many greens; chlorophyll nourishes the body’s detoxification system and ramps up cell regeneration.
The green bowl is my favorite home version of fast food. It’s not so much a recipe as it is a guideline to easily pack in a virtuous dose of nutrient-dense greens when time and energy to cook are scarce. Delicately steamed greens are piled over warm grains and dressed up with crumbled nori seaweed, toasted sesame seeds, and a punchy tamari dressing for a Japanese accent. For this simple bowl of greens and grains, the dressing is the bright, salty-citrus flavor wakes all of the earthy elements. Extend this versatile recipe beyond May, and experiment all year with other in-season greens that are always emerging. Try wintertime kale or the greens from autumn beets.
“Green Bowl” with Tamari Dressing
2 cups cooked whole grains
1 large broccoli stalk, cut into florets, stem peeled and cut in 1/4–inch slices
2 heads baby bok choy, base trimmed, stems and leaves chopped in 1–inch slices
2 sheets toasted nori
1 scallion, green and white parts, sliced thinly on the diagonal
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Tamari dressing to taste, recipe below
- Tamari Dressing
1/2 cup mirin
1/2 cup tamari or naturally brewed soy sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
- Reheat the cooked grains and keep warm (see Yoffie Wisdom), or cook a fresh batch if necessary.
- To steam the vegetables, place a steamer basket in a medium-size pot with an inch of water in the bottom. Bring the water to a boil and cover. Have two large plates ready nearby to quickly cool the steamed vegetables.
- Place the broccoli florets and stems in the steamer basket, cover, and check for tenderness after 2 minutes. You want them to be bright green and tender but still firm to the bite. When done, remove broccoli, spread out onto a plate in a single layer, and set aside.
- Place the bok choy into the steamer basket, cover, and steam for 1 minute, until bright green and tender but still firm. Remove and spread out on the second plate.
- Crumble a sheet of nori into small pieces in each serving bowl, using your hands. Divide the grains between each bowl, placing on top of the nori. Arrange the steamed vegetables around the rice and sprinkle scallions and toasted sesame seeds on top. To finish, drizzle the tamari dressing over everything to taste.
- For Dressing
- Put mirin in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down to low heat and continue cooking for 2–3 minutes to burn off any alcohol. Remove from the heat.
- Add the tamari and lemon juice. Refrigerate for up to a week.
- “Green Bowl” with Tamari and Protein. Bump up the vegetarian protein: add a serving of beans, sautéed tempeh, or a poached egg on top.
- “Green Bowl” with Tamari and Various Whole Grains. Play with different whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, or spelt berries would all work beautifully.
- “Green Bowl” with Various Dressings. Experiment with different dressings or sauces: try your favorite salad dressing, or a creamy tahini-based sauce.
If you’re unfamiliar with mirin, it’s a naturally sweet Japanese rice wine that’s easy to find in many health food stores. Make sure you check the ingredient label to make sure that it does not contain any sneaky additives like sugar or coloring; the highest quality mirin should only contain koji, rice, water, and sea salt.
Chlorophyll, the plant pigment that is the source of all green veggies’ hue, has been well studied for its ability to help stave off cancer growth and act as an antioxidant in the body. Chlorophyll protects DNA from precancerous molecules that are present in the environment, such as fungus-contaminated nuts and beans, toxic materials ingested from overcooked meat, and also air pollution. All you have to do to receive these benefits is add a moderate amount of greens to your diet. For the strongest protective effects, eat your green bowl or veggie-packed salad just before eating potentially carcinogenic foods.
Having a batch of cooked whole grains in the refrigerator is a smart way to be within minutes of a quick healthy meal, but leftovers have the tendency to dry out, and zapping them in the microwave doesn’t help the situation. To quickly reheat your grains and bring them back to life, steam them! Use the same steamer basket you use to cook your vegetables, and steam the rice for a few minutes until warmed through. The grains will taste freshly made.