Breakfast for the 21st century
Do you have any idea how hard it can be to find sorrel? I had no problem locating Kokuho Rose brown rice for Jessica Koslow’s sorrel pesto rice bowl. You can buy it online, and, besides, they had it at the Japanese imports store down the road from my house (though it’s from California, not Japan). But sorrel, in Texas, in October, was impossible. I went to store after store. The farmers’ market didn’t have it. I swore I once saw it at the Vietnamese market, but no. The gourmet supermarket had it the week before I started my search, and then it was out of stock for two months. I know, because I checked back every week until they had it.
Such is the draw of the famed sorrel pesto rice bowl, 2016’s breakfast recipe of the year. Jessica Koslow is by no means the first person to put rice in a bowl and serve it for breakfast, but there is no question that her sorrel pesto rice bowl is insanely popular: ”If I took this dish off the menu, I’m pretty sure we’d close,” she writes.
It’s not necessarily a traditional breakfast dish, despite being topped with breakfast kingpins eggs and bacon. Koslow writes in the headnote for the recipe, “This dish succeeding is like when the horse that no one bet on ends up winning the Kentucky Derby… even its trainer looks confused.” It’s breakfast for the 21st century: a diner plate dressed up in a health food costume.
Koslow has been serving the rice bowl at her Los Angeles restaurant Sqirl before this year. But 2016 saw the publication of her cookbook Everything I Want to Eat, thus making it possible to replicate the dish at home—and, it seems, all over the planet. The recipe ran in Bon Appetit, Lucky Peach, Tasting Table, and beyond. A quick search on Pinterest shows dozens of recipe bloggers recreating the dish, putting their own spin on it.
Writer Marian Bull described the sorrel pesto bowl on Eater as “a child of at least two distinct lineages of California cuisine.” One, the macrobiotic food movement that “largely manifested itself in the form of a fuckton of brown rice” and the other, the seasonal produce-driven movement led by Alice Waters' seminal restaurant Chez Panisse that, you know, actually tastes good.
It’s a customizable recipe, more or less—all the more adaptable to our modern gluten-free, vegan, soy-allergic, lactose-intolerant diets. The version in the book is topped with watermelon radishes, hot sauce, sheep’s milk feta, and a poached egg, but Koslow recommends adding other toppings to your liking: such as bacon or breakfast sausage, kale, or avocado. Really the only required elements of the sorrel pesto rice bowl are sorrel, rice, and a bowl.
Assuming you can find some sorrel, that is.