One morning last week, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed for no good reason. My foul mood matched the stormy, gray morning that grumbled outside, so I decided it was best to stay on the couch and stew in my own self pity for awhile. I got up a grand total of three times: to refill my coffee cup, to drag the rain-averse dog outside to pee and to grab a pile of cookbooks from the bookshelf.
Whenever I’m feeling low, it almost always helps to page through cookbooks (unless I’m in an “all the good ideas for cookbooks have already been thought up” type of mood). On this particular morning, it was a recipe for a savory rice bowl that jostled me out of my funk. I found it in Gwyneth Paltrow’s My Father’s Daughter cookbook.
I have to admit, I love pretty much everything Paltrow does. In 2008 she created goop.com, a lifestyle website/e-commerce platform that showcases her eye for simple, stylish recipes, clothes, and travel and wellness tips. When her cookbook followed a couple years later, I couldn’t resist it. Her cooking style, like everything else she does, is pretty and effortlessly celebratory.
I liked the concept of savory and sweet rice bowls for a Japanese-style breakfast. In Paltrow’s version, short-grain brown rice is cooked low and slow until it achieves an almost porridge-like consistency; then it’s topped with soy sauce and sesame oil or maple syrup and toasted almonds. Since I tend to lean savory, I seasoned my rice bowl with sesame oil, Chinese chili sauce, scallions, soy and lots of black pepper. I didn’t have brown rice, so I prepared my own version using short-grain arborio rice. I topped it with an egg that I basted in peanut oil.
This recipe serves 4 people. But if you’re being a solitude-seeking crabapple, it’s perfectly acceptable to stash the leftover cooked rice in the fridge for a friendlier day.
Savory rice bowl with basted egg
About 6 cups water, divided
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 large eggs
1/3 cup peanut oil
2 green onions, thinly sliced on a bias
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Asian chili sauce
Handful toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Method: Heat 5 cups of water in a large saucepan over high heat. When it’s boiling, add the rice and immediately turn the heat down to low. Cook the rice for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. About 45 minutes into the process, add the last cup of water. Season with salt and lots of black pepper.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat the peanut oil over medium-high heat. Crack the egg into the pan and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook the egg for 4 minutes, until the whites begin to set. Now, slightly tilt the pan and start basting the tops of the whites with the hot oil. Do this for about 3 more minutes until the whites have set completely. During the last minute or so, carefully spoon oil over the yolks a few times so they set slightly. Repeat with the remaining 3 eggs.
To serve, spoon some rice into a bowl. Top with green onion, sesame oil, soy sauce, chili sauce and sesame seeds. Serves 4.
Now, sink into a chair with a pair of chopsticks and a cup of hot tea. I guarantee your mood will improve a little more with each comforting bite.