When counters are covered with languishing tomatoes and peaches, refrigerators are bursting with garden cucumbers, and experimental edamame patches yield mounds of cute green pods- it’s food for thought. Like: Why am I not coming up with something that puts all this beautifully and quickly onto a plate?? Is it really that hard? We are scrambling to use this stuff: getting jars of pickles off on people, squelching large tomatoes into larger sandwiches, and mass-preserving soft peaches. But enjoying all manner of freshstuffs TONIGHT PLEASE really takes only one recipe.
Bibimbap is a Korean specialty: a collage of all things edible and delicious, centered on a plop of crispy-on-the-bottom white rice. Because crisping the rice requires a big skillet and an extra 15 minutes, I am often lazy enough to skip it. Instead, I simmer the rice in a mixture of water and coconut milk and add ginger, sesame seeds, and cilantro once it’s cooked. Next: bulgogi. Bulgogi is Korean marinated beef, usually made with ginger, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar. But bibimbap doesn’t need bulgogi, which must marinate for several hours, be painstakingly cut into strips, and which does not work well with good cuts of meat. So, as Dad deplores, I made the meal meatless. Vegetables are what make bibimbap shine: mushrooms, bean sprouts, seaweed, cucumber, carrots, edamame, bell pepper, onions, and scallions are all perfectly at home. That’s why bibimbap is such a good fridge-cleaner: a farmers’ market-weary bell pepper half, a cluster of good local mushrooms, some experimental edamame, and a surplus of cucumber went in, raising no eyebrows but the permanently lifted ones of Mom. Living with me- I don’t blame her.
Bibimbap is like a wedding, sort of. In two ways. You know the saying, something old, new, barrowed, and blue, right? Something like that? Bibimbap needs, I’ve found: something pickled, something hot, something that’s rice, and plenty that’s not. Quickled plums (that’s quick-pickled, folks, thirty minutes flat including marinating) and sweet chili sauce with dates (gochujang, plus dates from BonAppetit’s idea) cover pickled and hot. The other wedding analogy here is that at first, all the parts of a single serving are separate in the bowl: the edamame on one side, the rice on another, flanked by many other things and a puddle of date sauce. Now admire their beauty- stare. Now stir them all together like you just don’t care! The husband and wife have melded over the years- but they still love each other! And your beautiful masterpiece is an ugly mélange of the most delicious bowl of garden you will eat this summer. Besides, of course, a bowl of salted cucumber.
1 cup jasmine or basmati rice
1 cup coconut milk, for cooking rice
1 cup water
1 cup sliced mushrooms
½ medium bell pepper, diced
¼ cup chopped scallion, onion, or shallot
1 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 tbsp grated ginger
Salt and pepper
1 cup cooked shelled edamame (soybeans)
Thinly sliced cucumbers
Chopped fresh cilantro, basil, or mint
Pickled plums: 1 medium plum, diced finely
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp sugar
¼ tsp Chinese five-spice powder
Date + Chili Sauce: ½ cup pitted dates
¼ cup Korean or other sweet chili sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
Directions: In a medium saucepan on medium-hi, bring the rice, coconut milk, and water to a boil. Turn down to medium, cover partially, and cook for 20 minutes or until fluffy and tender, adding a little extra liquid if the rice boils dry. Meanwhile, pickle the plums: combine ingredients in a small container, cover, and refrigerate until serving. When the rice is 10 minutes from being done, heat the oil in a large skillet on medium. Sauté the vegetables until tender except the edamame. Place in a small bowl and cover. Add a little more oil to the skillet and fry the eggs, adding salt and pepper to taste and flipping once. To make the date sauce, mash ingredients together in a small bowl with a fork or potato masher, or whirl it up in a food processor. Stir the ginger and sesame and half the herbs into the rice. To assemble: fill the middle dint in each of four bowls with rice. Top with a fried egg. Make small piles of each accompaniment around the rice: a small pile of cucumber, a puddle of date sauce, a few pickled plum slices, some sautéed vegetables, and some edamame. Sprinkle with extra sesame and herbs. Stir together- make a wild crazy mess. Now enjoy.