For many of us, the first few weeks of quarantine were filled with carbs, baked treats, and more carbs. I think we all needed the extra dose of cozy as we collectively navigated the beginnings of this current reality. I mean, few things bring me as much joy right now as baking a loaf of banana bread, taking care of my new sourdough starter, or whipping up another batch of chocolate chip cookies. (I just tried this recipe and I have strategically stashed a bag of the delicious cookie dough in my freezer.)
And as much as my sweet tooth has been loving the carb-loaded meals, another part of me is now craving the dishes and foods that were a regular part of my weekly meals – crunchy vegetables, bright flavors, and fresh foods that brought a smile to my face and help me feel my best.
Given our current situation, stopping at the store on my way home from work to pick out some fresh produce to inspire that night’s dinner is no longer a regular part of my routine. My (almost) daily grocery run has been replaced with a curbside pick up every week and a half, and I’m having to be smart and purposeful with my veggies to make them last until my next pick up. And from the strategic planning of ingredients and smart storage of fresh foods, this herby kale rice bowl was born.
In an effort to stretch my produce, I’ve gotten crafty with prepping ingredients and smartly using my freezer. Think blending bunches of fresh herbs and blanched greens like kale with olive oil and freezing it in ice cube trays, and pickling vegetables to not only have them last longer, but make them an even more flavorful and add crunchy texture to any dish.
All of these components came together in this bowl after I had made a batch of rice during the weekend and was looking for a more interesting way to eat the leftovers. I love rice as much as the next person, but it can be kind of boring on its own. Inspired by Joshua McFadden’s kale sauce pasta (that I have also made several times during this quarantine), I popped a few thawed cubes of my frozen herbs and kale into my blender with some olive oil and instead of tossing the pesto-like sauce with pasta, I coated all the grains of rice I had leftover in it. Y’all. It was magic. Rice is such a great blank canvas for the rich olive oil sauce, and it’s the perfect cozy but healthy base for other goodies.
You can really top this bowl with anything. I’ve been loving some pickled veggies, crunchy cucumbers, sliced avocado, and a fried egg on top of the rice for a go-to combo. Other days I’ve done some crispy tofu, fresh greens, leftover roasted veggies, and whatever lentil I have on hand. You can play around with the flavors and be flexible about whatever you have. It’s really just about nourishing foods that make you feel good.
And if you round out your meal with a chocolate chip cookie or two, that’s perfectly acceptable.
for the kale cubes -
- 1 bunch of kale, chopped
- olive oil
for the herb cubes -
- a few bunches of any fresh herbs like dill, parsley, green onions, etc.
- olive oil
for assembly -
- 2 cups of prepared rice
- 1/4 cup of olive oil, more if needed
- salt to taste
- toppings of choice - pickled veggies, roasted veggies, eggs, etc.
- To prepare kale cubes, bring a medium pot of water up to a boil. Add the chopped kale to the boiling water and blanche for about 2 - 3 minutes until the kale has turned bright green. Remove from boiling water with a slotted spoon and dunk in ice water to stop the cooking. Remove from the ice water and place on a clean kitchen towel to dry. Once the kale is fully cool and dry, divide and pack the chopped kale into the cubes of an ice tray. Top each cube with olive oil and place in the freezer until fully frozen. The oil doesn't need to fully fill the cubes, a teaspoon or so per cube should suffice. Once the kale and oil has frozen, I remove from ice cube tray and store in Tupperware in the freezer to use as needed.
- To prepare herb cubes, finely chop up any mixed fresh herbs you have on hand. Pack the finely chopped herbs into the cubes of an ice cube tray and top with olive oil and freeze. The oil doesn't need to fully fill the cubes, a teaspoon or so per cube should suffice. Once the fresh herbs and oil has frozen, I remove from the ice cube tray and store in Tupperware in the freezer to use as needed.
- To assemble, remove 3 - 4 kale cubes and 3 - 4 herb cubes from the freezer and thaw in a small bowl. Add the thawed greens to a small blender or food processor and blitz. Drizzle in the olive oil until desired texture has been reached. It doesn't need to be completely smooth. Taste and salt as needed.
- Toss warm rice in desired amount of kale herb sauce, and assemble with toppings of choice. Enjoy!