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Korean bibimbap inspires grain bowl

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    When selecting miso to use in this grain bowl, keep in mind that white miso is less salty and milder than red miso, which is fermented longer.

Every New Year, lots of us resolve to lose weight. And every year, lots of us fail. The problem? We go from eating too much food, much of it unhealthy, to eating very little of anything. But after starving ourselves for a while, many of us return to our old habits and regain the weight.

This recipe for a Korean grain bowl is built on healthy, filling ingredients — whole grains and vegetable protein — and some good fat. It’s a middle ground between empty calories and self-starvation.

In Korea, this would traditionally be a rice dish is called bibimbap. Usually it consists of white rice topped with meat, vegetables, a raw or cooked egg, a soy-based sauce and some chili paste — all of it tossed together right before eating. My version swaps in a few healthier ingredients and increases the amount of veggies.

Instead of white rice, use your favorite whole grain, such as brown rice, wheat berries or quinoa. Instead of meat, use protein-rich tofu, which can be prepared to feature a satisfyingly “meaty” texture. Start with firm tofu, cut it into planks 1/3-inch thick, and weigh it down between paper towels for 20 minutes to remove excess moisture.

Miso-sesame sauce, an all-purpose sauce for many items, like sauteed fish and raw vegetables, makes this dish even more substantial. I encourage you to prepare your own, but if you don’t have time, just drizzle your bowl with low-sodium soy sauce.

The vegetables specified here — carrots, shiitakes and spinach — could be replaced with vegetables of your choice. Just be sure to pick vegetables of different colors, which will deliver both nutritional and visual benefits.

But whatever else you might swap out or lose, don’t abandon the lightly fried egg. Breaking the yolk and tossing it with the other ingredients adds a creamy coating to the grains. It’s the perfect finishing touch.

KOREAN GRAIN BOWL

By Sarah Moulton

  • 1 cup brown rice, wheat berries or whole grain of your choice (you’ll need 3 cups cooked)
  • 8 ounces firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 cups coarsely grated carrots
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 5 ounces baby spinach
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • Korean chili sauce (kochujang), Sriracha or another hot sauce of your choice
  • Kim chee, for garnish (optional)
  • >> Miso-sesame sauce
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons white or red miso
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons well-stirred tahini
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water

>> Choose your miso: White miso is less salty and milder than red miso, which is fermented longer.

To make sauce: In a blender, combine ingredients and blend until smooth. Set aside.

Cook rice, wheat berries or whole grain of your choice (such as quinoa) following package directions. You should have about 3 cups; keep warm.

Slice tofu into planks 1/3-inch thick. Place planks between paper towels on a plate, top plate with another plate and a weight, such as several cans of tomatoes, and set aside for 20 minutes.

Heat oven to 300 degrees. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium. Add carrots, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet.

Add another 1-1/2 tablespoons oil to the skillet. Add mushrooms and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, just until tender, about 4 minutes.

Add spinach and another pinch of salt and cook, stirring, just until wilted, about 3 minutes. Transfer mixture to baking sheet with the carrots.

Cut tofu planks in half and pat the pieces dry. Heat another 1/2 tablespoon of oil in the skillet over medium-high; add tofu. Cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes a side. Transfer the tofu to baking sheet and put baking sheet in oven to keep warm while you fry the eggs.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the skillet over medium, add eggs and fry to desired doneness.

To serve: Mound 3/4 cup of hot grain into the center of each of 4 shallow bowls. Arrange one-fourth of the tofu on top along with 1 egg and one-fourth of the carrots and spinach mixture. Sprinkle scallions and sesame seeds over the top and drizzle with miso-sesame sauce and hot sauce. Serve with kim chee on the side. Serves 4.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 617 calories, 38 g total fat, 5 g saturated fat, 215 mg cholesterol, 508 mg sodium, 50 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 20 g protein.

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