PHOTO BY MICHAEL PIAZZA / STYLING BY CATRINE KELTY
Last fall the Edible Boston crew headed to Iowa City for a food writing conference. We learned a lot, met some wonderful people and thoroughly enjoyed the Saturday morning farmers market. On our way back to the airport we stopped for breakfast at a lovely little café, Leaf Kitchen, with flea market furnishings and mismatched tableware, like a 1960s grandma’s kitchen. Turns out it’s owned by a European-trained Tokyo native and a South Korean graduate of the University of Iowa, and their menus are culturally varied, locally-focused, and elegantly refined in a comfortable, homey space. We all tried the morning’s special, congee with fried eggs and baby bok choy, and fell in love. Make a bowl of this soothing, restorative porridge for your sweetie and you will, too.
For the porridge:
½ cup jasmine rice
3 cups homemade chicken broth or water
1½ teaspoons salt
4 big slices fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, crushed
For the sauce:
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 glove garlic, grated
¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
½ teaspoon seasoned rice vinegar
½ teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon water
For the toppings:
4 tablespoons neutral oil, like safflower or grape seed
4 ounces local wild mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
4-6 baby bok choy, depending on size, cleaned and cut in half or quarters lengthwise
1 clove garlic, minced
1½ cups cilantro leaves
½ cup slivered scallions, cut on the diagonal
½ cup crispy shallots (see method in fish recipe on page 28)
2 teaspoons jarred chili-garlic sauce
sesame seeds, for sprinkling
Combine the rice, ginger, garlic and broth in a pot, add the salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, adding ½ cup more water every 20 minutes, for 1 hour. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. Stir together all sauce ingredients and set aside until the porridge is ready.
Heat a skillet or a wok on high and add 2 tablespoons oil. Sauté the mushrooms until softened and just beginning to crisp at the edges. Season with salt and pepper, remove from the pan and keep warm. Add another 2 tablespoons oil, the minced garlic, and the baby bok choy. Season with salt and stir fry until bright green and beginning to brown. Remove from the pan and keep warm.
When the porridge is ready, fry two eggs however you like them (or poach them, if you prefer) and begin to assemble the dish. Spoon about a cup of the porridge into each of two bowls and top with an egg, some mushrooms and bok choy, and a scattering of cilantro and scallions. Spoon on some of the soy-sesame sauce, a dollop of chili garlic sauce, and top with the crispy shallots and some sesame seeds. Serve immediately, preferably in pajamas.
NOTE: you can make the porridge ahead of time, and just reheat it while you make the sauce and cook the eggs and vegetables. Loosen the porridge with a little more broth or water if it is too thick after chilling.
Sarah Blackburn is a home cook, recipe developer, vegetable gardener and managing editor of Edible Boston. She can be reached at email@example.com