Meet In Your Kitchen | Jessica Koslow’s Sqirl in LA & the Magic of Sorrel Pesto Rice

by eat in my kitchen

Jessica Koslow

It’s captivating to watch a craftswoman concentrating on her material, a carpenter choosing the right piece of wood, a tailor feeling the fabrics, or a chef taking about a new recipe and picking the right ingredients. Jessica Koslow is a craftswoman, but she’s equally an artist gifted with a huge sense for freedom and creativity and this shines through every single one of her creations. She’s also a scientist who critically re-thinks all the single components of a dish until the final result is complete, until the textures and flavors feel aligned, until it looks deliciously tempting. This woman is so much, which makes her one of the leading figures of a new powerful movement of female chefs in California, but also in the rest of the world.

Sqirl is located just around the corner from Vermont Avenue that leads straight to Griffith Park, the restaurant is almost unspectacular, pleasantly unpretentious and casual, but the dishes that come out of the kitchen can easily compete with Michelin starred restaurants. The open kitchen works smoothly, peacefully, every chef seems to deeply enjoy the part they have in the Sqirl universe, it’s a bit like friends cooking, just more precise. Like the Sorrel Pesto Rice, inspired by Pierre Troisgros, the father of the nouvelle cuisine movement, that blew my mind: Kokuho rose brown rice, sorrel pesto, preserved meyer lemon, lacto-fermented hot sauce, watermelon radish, French sheep feta, and a perfectly poached egg spreading its shiny liquid yolk all over this vibrant composition. And the Sqirl Chicken Salad with Marin Sun chicken, bok choy, dehydrated citrus and root vegetables, grated carrots, and black garlic vinaigrette balances crunch and tenderness, sweetness and bitterness, it’s a dish that excites and satisfies.

Jessica comes across as very relaxed, she laughs a lot, but when you ask her a question she pauses and takes her time to think, to answer with the same precision you can find in her dishes, in the same way that she designed her restaurant, and how she put her first cookbook together, Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking. There is a vision that only she can see that seems to guide her in the right direction. She used to be a competitive figure skater which explains her discipline and dedication, and when she stopped at 19, she channeled her obsession into something new: food.

From then on it was all about cooking, eating, and tasting. She was fascinated by the moment when you put the first bite into your mouth and you’re overwhelmed. That’s the experience she wants to create at her restaurant and she knows that she only has this first second to reach and convince her guests’ taste buds. She and her team are gifted with outstanding produce, which she honors in her creations and that she receives from farmers who are friends and part of her community. This is the foundation of her work: “Raw produce defines a season, it’s the passing of times and in California, thankfully, it’s such a delicious marker of time. Our produce is an exciting time stamp and a building block from there.” The Sqirl world is about dishes that feel familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, they create comfort and inquisitiveness, it’s about different layers and textures, using the raw natural produce, but also playing with it, fermenting, pickling, or dehydrating it. As exciting as it is to eat this woman’s food, it’s a pure pleasure listing to her words.

Sqirl is a breakfast and lunch spot only, but in 2018 Jessica will open a dinner place for all her begging, hungry fans, called Tel – keep your eyes and ears open!

In the next months, I’ll share many new Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey, for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

Jessica Koslow

 

Jessica Koslow

Jessica Koslow’s Sorrel Pesto Rice

Serves 6

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, flesh removed, peel finely chopped
2-4 small watermelon radishes, very thinly sliced
¼ cup (60 ml) Fermented Jalapeño Hot Sauce
¾ cup (85 g) crumbled sheep’s-milk feta

6 poached eggs
Fleur de sel
Freshly ground black pepper

Boil the rice in plenty of salted water until it’s tender, 30 to 45 minutes. Drain and let cool.
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.

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.

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.

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.

Jessica Koslow

 

Jessica Koslow

 

Watch my interview with Jessica in LA in September 2017:

 

 

Thank you, Jessica! 

 

Jessica Koslow

 

Jessica Koslow

 

Jessica Koslow

 

Jessica Koslow

 

Jessica Koslow

 

Jessica Koslow

 

Jessica Koslow