When a Ukrainian gal becomes a dietitian, creating healthy versions of her favourite (indulgent) childhood dishes, like this ‘Baba Bowl’ is to be expected … right?
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I LOVE the food that my granny makes. I mean, what is there not to love? Oh yeah, except for the fact that it is SO rich. I recall the first time I watched her make Christmas dinner. I had to scoop my jaw off of the floor. The whipping cream, bacon, sour cream and butter… oh my! No wonder it tastes so darned good! Sigh. I still indulge in those dishes a couple times of year, but let’s be real, this doesn’t sound like ‘everyday food’, now does it?
The whole notion of sticking a whole bunch of ingredients into a bowl, topping it with some type of killer sauce or dressing and calling it lunch or dinner had me at hello. If you haven’t ever tried a Glory Bowl (originally inspired by the incredible Whitewater Cooks), you haven’t really lived. It’s perfection in a bowl. Just writing this makes me want to dash into the kitchen to make one!
Inspired by this glorious trend, I figured that I could marry the two and create a new hybrid bowl: the Baba Bowl (‘Baba’ means granny, or technically old lady, in Ukrainian). And I must say I was pretty proud of this one (not totally sure if my granny felt the same lol). The smoked tofu provides the ‘bacon’ flavour, the brown rice and beet greens are a nod to my granny’s original beet rolls, and the cashew cream dressing is such a yummy alternative to sour cream (not missed one single bit). I added grated beets in to the mix for colour, flavour, nutrients and of course, to reduce food waste!
Speaking of food waste, I love how this dish makes use of the whole beet, the leaves and the beets. If you haven’t tried beet leaves before here is your chance! Most people throw them out but we scour the farmer’s markets in the summer begging for them! They are PACKED with nutrition and have the most incredible flavour.
'Baba' Bowl (Ukrainian rice bowl)
Filled with fibre and antioxidants, this filling, satisfying and totally Ukrainian-inspired dish comes together with a few simple ingredients and also happens to be vegan and gluten-free! It makes 3-4 servings, (3 large bowls, 4 smaller bowls).
- 1 cup uncooked brown rice (I used Calrose)
- 2/3 cup raw cashews
- 2/3 cup water
- 1//4 cup nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Baba Bowl Ingredients:
- 2x 210 g-packages smoked tofu (I used Soyganic)
- 1/4 cup corn starch (optional)
- 3 tablespoons avocado oil, divided
- 6 cups loosely packed chopped fresh beet leaves
- 1/3 cup loosely packed dill, roughly chopped
- 1 cup grated peeled raw beets
- salt and pepper to taste
Cook the rice according to the instructions (see note below). Make the dressing and prep the other ingredients while the rice is cooking.
MAKE THE DRESSING
Pour boiling water over the raw cashews and let them sit for 20 minutes. Once the cashews have soaked, drain them and place them in a blender. Add the water, nutritional yeast, apple cider vinegar, garlic and salt and blend until smooth. Set aside.
PREP THE BOWL
Cut the tofu into 1/2" cubes. Heat 2 tablespoons of avocado oil in a large pan over medium heat. For crispy tofu, toss the tofu cubes in the cornstarch (you can skip the cornstarch if desired). Lightly sauté the tofu on all sides until just golden brown. Transfer the tofu to a plate.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium heat and add the beet greens and season with salt and pepper. Toss and sauté until they are just wilted, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a plate or bowl.
ASSEMBLE THE BOWL
Divide the rice among the bowls (this makes 3 large bowls or 4 smaller bowls). Top each bowl with a portion of tofu, grated beets, sautéed greens and dill. Drizzle with the dressing and serve immediately.
*We used Calrose rice (the method will vary depending on the type of rice used, follow package instructions - these are the instructions for the Calrose rice):
- Bring 2 cups water to a boil
- Slowly add 1 cup rice
- Stir several times with a fork
- Cover saucepan, lower heat, and simmer for 55 minutes.
- Uncover, toss with a fork.