Special days use real butter

Tomorrow, August 1, is my sister’s birthday. I normally post flowers in remembrance of her, but this year I took a photo of something far more meaningful. My niece came out to spend a week in Colorado with my parents, and Jeremy and I took her standup paddleboarding in the mountains and met up for a few meals. It’s been almost 11 years since I’ve seen her and she’s grown into quite the remarkable young lady – smart, hard-working, motivated, athletic, sweet, polite, confident.

Mid-July is about the time I really start paying attention to what is growing in the high country. You never know when a season will start earlier than normal, but more than catching an early season, I like to make the observations for my own data purposes. Turns out the huckleberries are having a very good season and they seem to be a month sooner than usual.

My pre-sunrise mornings are consumed with checking my huckleberry patches or picking huckleberries or both.

When we took my niece paddleboarding, we brought Yuki to give her another day on the board. As I paddled her out on the lake, we passed a boulder that was jutting out of the water. Yuki began to growl at it, then she started to bark. It must have made her nervous because she backed up and fell off the board! And like everything else, she took it in stride and remained her calm self as she swam up to me and I pulled her back onto the board.

Yuki is six months old today according to her estimated birth date of January 31, 2018 (she was found at 2 weeks old). Yuki continues to bounce about the house like a rompy pup, sometimes stopping mid-bounce to scratch an itch on her chin and tumbling over backwards clumsily. It’s ridiculous how cute she is. This little pup has gained four pounds in the four weeks we’ve had her and we think her legs are longer. She is certainly taller, but she remains shorter than Neva. We have no idea how big she will get (we suspect Neva-size or smaller), but it doesn’t really matter. We are just so happy she is ours.

The last time we were in Crested Butte, we enjoyed a seared tuna rice bowl at Montanya’s tasting room, one of our favorite restaurants in town. It was loaded with vegetables and seared ahi tuna on a bed of forbidden rice. I was hooked. When we got back to Nederland, I put it on our weekly menu, but as I shopped for the ingredients I changed it up a little. I didn’t want to sear anything (it was hot) and I thought tuna poke would taste even better. Instead, I made a tuna poke bowl – and it was awesome.

These sorts of dishes have great flexibility so that you can cater them to your own preferences. First off, you don’t have to use forbidden rice. I just happen to like the taste and I think it’s a gorgeous purple-black color. Use steamed short grain brown rice or sushi rice if forbidden rice is hard to find. Omit the fish and pile on your favorite vegetables for a vegetarian version, or you can substitute chicken teriyaki for the fish. Lots of options!

In addition to the goodies listed above are some pickled red onions. I find pickled foods add a nice tangy bite to rice bowls. These onions get better the longer they sit in the pickling liquid, so don’t slice them too thin. I kept mine about 1/4-inch thick. If you’re in a hurry, give the onions at least an hour in the vinegar and start them around the time you start cooking the rice.

You don’t have to have a dressing for your poke bowl, but Jeremy and I both enjoy the nasal-clearing effects of wasabi. Instead of straight wasabi mayonnaise, I opted to give it great dimension with some salt, some sugar, and a bit of acid in the form of lemon juice. Adjust the amount of wasabi and other ingredients to taste. I like to mix everything but the mayonnaise together and then whisk the mayonnaise in last to avoid lumps. The dressing should have a consistency that makes it easy to drizzle.

When the rice is cooked, the pickles made, and the dressing finished, I prepare my poke. I do this because I find the poke clock starts ticking the moment you mix it, so I try to toss it up right before serving. There are many ways to make poke and it doesn’t have to use tuna (you can use crab, salmon, yellowtail, scallops, etc.), but if you do use tuna please please please make sure it is sashimi grade tuna (maguro). I kept this version simple since it is going into a rice bowl with several other components. And if you want to make this gluten-free, swap the soy sauce out for tamari.

Once the poke has been mixed, work quickly to assemble your poke bowl. It helps to have all of the ingredients prepped, as if you were setting up a taco bar, except it’s a poke bar. [Okay, we totally need to make poke tacos.] I made mine pretty for the camera, but we have been known to pile everything into a bowl when someone is hungry or if we are trying to use up the leftovers.

Jeremy and I were delighted with how the poke bowls turned out. We knew we liked all of the individual components, but combining everything in one bowl was an order of magnitude better than we expected. Not only is it a visual rainbow, it has a spectrum of complementary textures and flavors and even temperatures if you serve the rice warm. This dish is going into our menu rotation until the first snowfall – and maybe even after that!

* To cook forbidden rice: Combine 1 cup forbidden rice with 1 3/4 cups water and a pinch of salt. If using a rice cooker, set to cook for brown rice. If cooking stove top, bring everything to a boil in a medium saucepan, then cover and reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand covered for a few minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Pickle the onions: Place the onion slices in a pint or quart jar. Heat the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar and salt have dissolved. When the vinegar boils, remove from heat. Pour the vinegar over the onions. Stuff the onions down so they are covered by the liquid. Let cool. Refrigerate.

I’m glad you were able to spend some fun time with your niece. I bet she had a lot of fun visiting Boulder/Ned. And I love how puppies bark at something new or strange to them. My sister’s puppy does the same thing. Yesterday, it was a BBQ grill, lol! So happy the girls are loving and learning from each other. 2 weeks…wait, what???? Where was she found and how did she survive?

jill – Yuki was found with her mother. I don’t know what happened to her mom, but I sure wish I could have seen a photo of her or met her 🙁 And don’t be too impressed with our “menu rotation”. Sometimes when life is very busy (most of the time) we end up eating what looks like an elementary school lunch menu: pizza, tacos, pasta, grilled cheese – ha ha ha!