I love sauerkraut. It’s in my genes. My Dad is 100% Polish and growing up, dinners at Grandma’s house included delicious (and kraut-y) Polish classics like Pierogis and Kapusta.
So when Native Foods Cafe opened in Chicago last year, the first item on their menu that I tried was their Sesame-Kale Macro Bowl of steamed kale, brown rice, creamy ginger sesame sauce, sauerkraut, gomasio and toasted sesame seeds. This was my first time having sauerkraut with food that wasn’t Polish so I was surprised by how AMAZING this combination was. Since then, I’ve tried most of the items on Native Foods Cafe’s menu (all delicious!), and this is still my absolute favorite dish there.
Throughout my years of loving sauerkraut, I never had any idea that it’s actually a super-food of sorts. With the recent rise in popularity of Kombucha (fermented tea), I’ve been hearing much more in the media about the health-benefits of fermented foods. As it turns out, just like yogurt, the probiotics (healthy bacteria) in fermented foods may improve digestion, support the immune system, and reduce inflammation in the gut. Among Kombucha and Sauerkraut, fermented products also include BEER, Kimchi (spicy cabbage), Miso (soybean paste), Sourdough Bread and Pickles!
Recently, I decided to make the Go-To-Grain & Veggie Bowl which I saw demo’d at Chicago’s VeggieFest. The best thing about this recipe is that it’s flexible. You choose your favorite grain, your favorite veggies, your favorite fermented item, and your favorite toppings!
At the VeggieFest demo, along with Sauerkraut, Cilantro, Sesame Oil and Sprouts, the recipe included Quinoa, Broccoli, Carrots, Scallions and Brazil nuts, but my version at home was very different. With inspiration from the Native Foods’ Sesame Kale Macro Bowl, the first bowl I made had Brown Rice, Kale, Cauliflower, Leeks and Almonds.
To be honest, I was nervous about this recipe. Combining Sesame Oil, Cilantro, and Sauerkraut seemed like a bad idea. It turned out to be quite the opposite!
It was so amazingly delicious that even our friend – who does not like cauliflower and thinks “eh” about sauerkraut – was caught making audible “Mmmm” sounds as he ate his bowl. It turns out that Sesame Oil just might be a magical secret ingredient that helps make sense out of crazy flavor combinations like this one.
This week, I made the recipe again, distilling the recipe down to just a few key ingredients with the same delicious results. Here’s the basic recipe, with bonus options to add some extra pizzazz to your bowl.
Be sure to check out additional tips below the recipe, as noted with an * below:
SESAME KALE & KRAUT BOWLS
- 3 Cups cooked Brown Rice*
- 1 Large Bunch of Kale
- 1 cup Sauerkraut*
- 3 Tablespoons Sesame Oil*
- 1 bunch Cilantro (optional: leave it out if you’re not a fan of it)
- 3 teaspoons Gomasio* (optional: can substitute sesame seeds + salt to taste)
- Pinch of Salt
- More Veggies of your choice, especially:
- Steamed Cauliflower
- Sauteed Leeks
- Sprouts* – any kind
- Sliced or Slivered Almonds
- Set up a Steamer basket in a large pot with a lid. Fill pot with 1 inch of water and place over Medium-High heat.
- Remove the Kale Leaves from their stems (If you’ve never done this before, this video shows the easiest way), tear into bite-size pieces and wash thoroughly.
- Place the Kale into the Steamer basket, and toss it with a pinch of salt. Cover with a lid and cook until tender (~4-5 minutes), tossing the kale periodically for even cooking.
- If using any “Bonus” veggies, steam those next. Cauliflower Florets steam in ~4-6 minutes.
2. Assemble your Bowls
- In each bowl, toss together 1 cup Brown Rice, 1/3 of the Steamed Veggies, 1 Tablespoon of Sesame Oil, and 1 teaspoon of Gomasio.
- Top with a sprinkle of Cilantro and any other toppings you choose!
- Brown Rice – Store-bought Frozen Brown Rice is a staple at my place. I confess, I do have a little bit of Eco-guilt – frozen rice uses more energy than dried rice from storage, shipping, and the process of cooking it-freezeing it-and heating it again. Plus Frozen rice costs more. But on busy weeknights, having rice on the table after just 4 minutes in the microwave (with one less pot to clean!) is priceless. You may also want to consider cooking rice in bulk and freezing some yourself!
- Sauerkraut – The only ingredients in your Sauerkraut should be Cabbage, Water, and Salt. Some common brands contain some icky preservatives, so give the label a quick check-over before placing it in your cart.
- Sesame Oil – If you can find a Cold-Pressed Oil, choose that over Toasted oils. Oils are delicate – Heat (from both processing and cooking) can result in free radicals, which is why I add the oil after cooking.
- Gomasio – Gomasio is a mixture of sesame seeds and salt, popular in Japanese kitchens. I chose a Gomasio that also contained a little bit of seaweed for extra minerals.
- Sprouts – Choose your favorite kind of sprouts (I generally choose whatever kind is cheapest/freshest at the store!). I’ve used both Pea Sprouts & Bean Sprouts and both worked very well in the recipe.
I’d love to hear from you!
What unexpected combinations of ingredients have you enjoyed?
What’s your favorite fermented food/beverage?
I’ve linked up my recipe at two Healthy, Vegan recipe swaps. Check ’em out to find more great recipes!