Rice bowls are a staple in the diet of most vegans. The possibilities for a filing meal are as endless as they are delicious. I often throw some brown or yellow rice in a bowl with greens, beans, and salsa for a super quick dinner on a busy night. For this recipe, however, I wanted to highlight some wonderful ingredients that pack a huge nutritional punch!
Forbidden rice, also known as Chinese black rice, has double the fiber of brown rice and more protein! (Source) It has a wonderful nutty, buttery flavor and pairs well with strong flavors.
Sweet Dumpling Squash is an often overlooked but truly beautiful winter squash. It is a cousin to the acorn squash, but is decidedly sweeter and more visually appealing. One cup (cooked) is only 40 calories! Most grocery stores carry at least one or two of these, though you may have to hunt for them behind the festive bundles of corn husks and miniature pumpkins. Trust me, it’s worth digging. My omnivore husband and hater of all things squash loved this.
The secret to the creamy sauce that tops this recipe is almonds and pine nuts. It is important to use un-toasted pine nuts here, so that they don’t overpower the sauce with their strong flavor.
“You have to be careful with pine nuts because they are so strong…If I use even a small amount in an apple dessert, it turns into a pine nut dessert.” – Emily Luchetti
Make this recipe on a cold November night when the oven can warm your kitchen and this rice bowl can warm your soul.
- For the Bowl:
- 1 Sweet Dumpling Squash
- 2 cups Forbidden Rice
- 1 pound asparagus (the pencil thin kind)
- Orange zest
- For the Sauce:
- 3/4 cup sliced almonds (not whole)
- 1/4 cup un-toasted pine nuts
- 1 1/2 cups boiling water
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeeze orange juice
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Pre-heat oven to 350. Cut the top off of the Sweet Dumpling Squash and do not throw it away. Be careful when cutting so as not to lose a finger, as the squash is very hard. Scoop out the seeds/stringy bits with a spoon and discard. Put the top back on the squash and bake in the oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until easily pierced with a fork through the outside skin.
- When the squash has approximately half an hour left, cook the Forbidden Rice in your rice cooker or on the stove. If using a rice cooker, use the brown rice setting but keep an eye on it, as it doesn’t take as long as brown rice and it may start to burn. If using the stovetop, bring 4 cups of water to a boil, add the rice, reduce the heat and simmer covered for about thirty minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.
- Trim the bottoms off of the asparagus and arrange on a baking sheet. Spray the asparagus lightly with cooking spray to prevent sticking. When the Sweet Dumpling Squash comes out of the oven, pop the asparagus in and roast at 350 for 10-15 minutes. Keep an eye on your asparagus; it can go from done to mush in a matter of seconds. It should be easily pierced with a fork, but still have a snap when you bite into it.
- Scoop the squash out of its skin and cut into chunks, or leave the skin on if you want extra texture. It’s edible!
- While your asparagus is roasting, place the un-toasted pine nuts, almond slivers, and 1 1/2 cups boiling water into your blender. Blend until completely smooth (if you have a sad $30 blender like I do, this may take a few minutes). The boiling water serves a double purpose here – it softens the almonds/pine nuts, and it warms the sauce without using a pot.
- Add the orange juice, salt and pepper to the blender and pulse to combine.
- Assemble your rice bowl by placing Forbidden Rice on the bottom, and adding roasted asparagus and Sweet Dumpling Squash. Top with a generous dollop of Creamy Orange Almond sauce. Sprinkle with salt and orange zest and serve while hot.
I should say that my husband said, while eating large spoonfuls of this dish, that it was “restaurant quality.” That is extremely high praise for an avowed squash hater and a person who generally only loves the Spanish varieties of rice bowls.
Have you ever heard of a Sweet Dumpling Squash? Do you have a favorite way to prepare it?