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I can't help it. I am addicted to self-improvement. At least in January, I can get away with it more easily when the rest of the world joins in. New year, new us.
I specialize in French recipes, as you know, and sometimes, those can be pretty not self-improving. I do, quite happily, fall prey to a beckoning potato gratin every now and again. But what I love about food is that you can not only take pleasure in eating, but also take care by eating. You can eat yourself well. I like that idea—in fact, at times, I cling to it. Those who read my posts will know that my maman taught me most of what I know about those gratins; she also, in times of sickness, taught me how to take care of my body. In my next few posts, I will share a bit of my other obsession: Food that is delicious, but devilishly healthy. I get a real smirking kick out of make something good, good for me. It feels like beating the system.
This dish is a fresh warm black rice salad, full of all green things and topped with miso-charred meaty portobello mushrooms. I first discovered black rice with my friend and nutritionist Jessie about a decade ago when she took me to the Union Square restaurant Republic, and I became obsessed with finding it. Thankfully, it's more readily available now. It's nutty, both in flavor and texture, and has more vitamins and nutrients than regular white rice, so the salad starts with a pretty good base.
A little secret to rice, which I picked up in France, is to boil it like pasta in a big pot of salted water. To that, I add edamame beans and strips of Savoy cabbage to quickly blanch them. Then, to the warm salad, I add cilantro, jalapeño, lime, and scallions. The dressing is light and simple: soy sauce, a dash of sesame oil, and rice vinegar. I let it steep together so the warm rice soaks up the flavors of the rest of the salad while I put together the miso-charred mushrooms.
Another dish to which Jessie also introduced me was miso black cod—my inspiration for these mushrooms. I smother the Portobello caps in a mixture of freshly grated ginger, sweet mirin, and white miso paste. I char the mushrooms under the broiler, and as they wilt and become juicy, the sweet and spicy marinade caramelizes and bubbles up. It is so good.
I thickly slice the mushrooms, almost like steak, and perch them atop a pile of the warm black rice salad, studded with little flecks of green. The dish is light, but intensely savory, and fresh. It just makes you feel good, better—even, improved.
As we always toast in my house on New Year's, santé!
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