If you ever find yourself near the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles and ask a local for a restaurant recommendation, chances are you’ll be directed to Sqirl immediately. The tiny spot has become a cult favorite since it opened in 2011, back when Sqirl owner and chef Jessica Koslow was exclusively making jams. Today, the eaterie boasts an extensive (and highly Instagrammable) breakfast and lunch menu of market-driven dishes with special attention to gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options. On a recent visit, while waiting on a line out the door no less, I half-jokingly described the experience as “very LA.” But my brunch order of garnished avocado toast, sorrel pesto rice bowl, and sencha iced green tea quickly proved why the hype was real. It’s certainly worth the drive to the East Side when you happen to find yourself in LA.
But for the rest of us who don’t reside anywhere near Sqirl, Koslow’s new cookbook Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking (Abrams) makes for the ideal kitchen companion. With 100 vibrant and dietary-modifiable recipes offered, Koslow allows readers to rethink the way “healthy” food is cooked and experienced without sacrificing any of the flavors or portion sizes. Below, give the famous Sqirl standby breakfast item, the Sorrel Pesto Rice Bowl, a go in your own home.
Sorrel Pesto Rice Bowl
Kokuho Rose brown rice, nut-free sorrel pesto, preserved Meyer lemon, feta, and a poached egg.
If I took this dish off the menu, I’m pretty sure we’d close. It has become the most iconic dish at Sqirl, even though you probably don’t think of sorrel and preserved lemons as obvious breakfast foods. This dish succeeding is like when the horse that no one bet on ends up winning the Kentucky Derby. At first nobody even knew it was in the race. Then, all of a sudden, the long shot is ahead by leaps and bounds, and even its trainer looks confused. -- Jessica Koslow
3 cups (600 g) medium-grain brown rice, preferably Kokuho Rose
Fine sea salt
½ cup plus
2 teaspoons (130 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup (25 g) lightly packed kale leaves (stems removed)
2 cups (50 g) lightly packed chopped sorrel leaves
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus more for serving
1 Preserved Meyer Lemon (recipe follows or store-bought), flesh removed, peel finely chopped
2 to 4 small watermelon radishes, very thinly sliced
¼ cup (60 ml) Fermented Jalapeño Hot Sauce (page 267)
¾ cup (85 g) crumbled sheep’s-milk feta6 poached eggs (page 22)
Fleur de sel
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Boil the rice in plenty of salted water until it’s tender, 30 to 45 minutes. Drain and let cool.
2. Meanwhile, make the sorrel pesto: In a blender or food processor, combine ½ cup (120 ml) of the oil, kale, sorrel, and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice. Blend until smooth, stopping and scraping down the sides as needed. Season with salt to taste.
3. In a large bowl, toss the rice with the dill, preserved lemon peel, 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice, and the pesto. Taste and add a bit more salt, if needed.
4. In a small bowl, toss the radish with the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice, the remaining 2 teaspoons oil, and a pinch of salt. Set aside to marinate for a few minutes, until the radish is pliable and tender.
5. To serve, divide the rice among six bowls. Spoon a line of hot sauce across the rice. Arrange a little clump of feta on one side and a rosette of radish slices on the other side. Set a poached egg in the middle of each bowl and season it with fleur de sel and black pepper. Garnish with a tiny sprig or two of dill.
MAKE IT YOURS
Think of this rice bowl as a solid base for you to build upon. Don’t like poached eggs? Leave them out. Make it a Meat Lovers’ by adding bacon (page 115) and breakfast sausage (page 117). Or go the vegan route and substitute kale for the feta and eggs. We like to toss the kale in our Southern-Style Fresh Cream and Black Mustard Dressing (page 266) before adding it to the bowl.
Buy Jessica Koslow's debut cookbook, Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking, here.