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special days

Recipe: tuna poke bowl

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.

also a fan of cheesecake

posing for a photo with her grandma and grandpa

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.

a nice display of showy fleabane

mycelium growing on a dead tree in a delicate dendritic pattern

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!

cucumber, forbidden rice, avocado, masago (flying fish roe), radish, pickled ginger

forbidden rice steamed in the rice cooker

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.

sugar, salt, rice vinegar, red onion

combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt

slice the onions

pour the hot vinegar over the onions

pickled and pink

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.

mayonnaise, lemon juice, wasabi paste, salt, sugar

mix the wasabi, sugar, salt, and lemon juice into a paste

beat in the mayonnaise

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.

green onions, maguro, sesame seeds, sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce

sliced and diced

put it all in a bowl

toss it together

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.

forbidden rice, poke, cucumbers, avocado, wasabi dressing, pickled onions, pickled ginger, radish slices, masago (flying fish roe)

a little bit of everything

some wasabi dressing on top

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!

garnish with more toasted sesame seeds and sliced green onions

fresh and refreshing

Tuna Poke Bowl
[print recipe]
inspired by Montanya Rum

3 cups cooked rice* (use white sushi rice, brown short-grain rice, or forbidden rice)
poke (recipe below)
1 avocado, diced
2 cups cucumber, diced
pickled red onions (recipe below)
gari (pickled ginger)
2 tbsps masago or tobiko (flying fish roe)
1 radish, sliced
wasabi dressing (recipe below)

*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.

pickled onions
1/2 red onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/2 cup rice vinegar (unseasoned)
3 tbsps sugar
1 1/2 tsps kosher salt

wasabi dressing
1 tbsp wasabi paste
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup mayonnaise

tuna poke
1/2 lb. maguro (sashimi grade tuna), cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 green onions, minced
2 tsps sesame seeds, toasted
2 tsps soy sauce (use tamari to make it gluten-free)
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp sugar

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.

Make the wasabi dressing: Stir the wasabi paste, lemon juice, sugar, and salt together until completely blended. Whisk in the mayonnaise. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Make the poke: Toss all ingredients together.

Assemble the poke bowl: Divvy the rice among 2-3 bowls. For each bowl, top the rice with poke, avocado, cucumber, pickled onions, pickled ginger, flying fish roe, and radish. Drizzle wasabi dressing over the bowl or serve the dressing on the side. Serves 2-3.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

tuna poke salmon poke sashimi salad hamachi yellowtail crudo

13 nibbles at “special days”

  1. Collette says:

    Oh, Jen, I’m so happy to see your niece looking so happy, lovely and strong. Each year when you post a tribute to Kris, I think about her kids and how they are and if they’re happy. Thank you for sharing this with us. Such a lovely testament to Kris.

  2. Jane M says:

    GREAT post! I have had a dog nearly my entire life and welp 4 years ago we decided to get a 2nd dog. This move changed our lives FOR.THE.BETTER.! I love love love having 2 dogs! I also LOVE YOUR DOG POSTS – your food too – but your sweet girls make my heart sing! Lalalalalala!

  3. Kristin says:

    Oh wow, how wonderful that you got to spend time with your niece. It seems like yesterday that you were making blankets for Kris’s kids! The poke bowl looks so darn good! And Neva and Yuki really brighten my day!

  4. Melissa says:

    Oh Jen, I am beyond thrilled you got to see your niece. <3 <3

  5. Rob says:

    I had good ahi poke tacos at a place in San Diego when I was out there last fall. You’re right, you need to make some.

  6. jill hyde says:

    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?
    This dish is amazingly beautiful. Now you’re amazing me that you have a menu rotation. It’s not simply, what do you want for dinner honey?
    xoxo, jill

  7. kellypea says:

    Sounds like you’re having a great summer! The poke bowl looks awesome. I love poke but have never had it like this. It’s so pretty all dressed up n a bowl. Lots of ideas to switch it up. Yes to the tacos!

  8. Veronica says:

    Great family reunion. The poke bowl looks fabulous. I will have to make it soon.

    I love your pups ❤️

  9. BAE says:

    Beautiful! Niece, pups, and food. Love your blog.

  10. Pey-Lih says:

    Thank you for the pictures, remembrance of our beloved ones, and ones who are still with us today – it’s a beautiful way to celebrate their memory. This was a wise and thoughtful decision to share this way. And it’s so nice to see you have two pups – they keep themselves entertained. Have a beautiful week, Jen!

  11. jenyu says:

    Collette – Thank you xo

    Jane M – I could imagine introducing the wrong second dog to our house could have been a disaster, but Yuki was definitely the right choice! Logistically, life is still sorting itself out, but both pups seem happier :)

    Kristin – I know, right? How time flies. xo

    Melissa – xoxo

    Rob – There you go. Now I have to make some!! :)

    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!

    kellypea – That’s what I love about bowls and salads and such – you can make it however you like! Okay, that’s two votes on the tacos now :)

    Veronica – Thank you :)

    BAE – xo

    Pey-Lih – Thank you!

  12. angelitacarmelita says:

    that’s it. I’m moving in.

    And your niece… what a beautiful young woman and a beautiful reflection of your sister. So happy you had time together.

  13. Meli says:

    You forgot beautiful when describing your niece. Looks like a fun time was had by all! =)

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