How to make your own Roots bowl

Whether you’re in D.C. or lounging at the beach here’s how to put together that perfect El Jefe


While it may not be quite up to par, a DIY Roots bowl will get you through the summer.

Christina Anton | Cavalier Daily

With summer quickly approaching, students stuck in Clem cramming for exams are dreaming about studying abroad this summer in Valencia or finally getting the chance to intern on Capitol Hill. Most of us will not be staying in Charlottesville over the summer, so unless you’ve got a local internship or are taking a summer class, the end of second semester means saying goodbye to Charlottesville and its most valuable treasure — Roots.

Coming from someone who stands in the mile-long Roots line at least twice a week to get one of their signature bowls, the idea of going two whole months without Roots is incredibly daunting. Will I be getting enough kale? Will salads back home or at my internship even taste good compared to Roots?

If you’re just as upset as I am about the idea of not making a weekly Roots run over the summer, one solution to our problem is to make our own Roots salad. While it may not be as up to par as the real thing, a DIY Roots salad will be comparable for the summer.

Let’s start with the most popular bowl at Roots, the El Jefe. All of the ingredients in an El Jefe bowl — kale, brown rice, avocado, corn, black beans, red onions, feta and pita chips — are available to purchase at any local grocery store. The kale at Roots, however, is not just any ordinary kale, but massaged kale which makes it lighter and easier to chew. To massage kale, first, take the leafy parts off the center rib section of the kale. Then once you have all of the leafy bits in a bowl, pour several drizzles of olive oil on top, sprinkle on some salt and move the kale around the bowl with your hands for a few minutes. This method will keep the kale from being chewy and tasting so bitter.

Now that the kale is ready to go, I would heat up some microwavable brown rice. My favorite is whole-grain Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice. As an incredibly lazy cook, microwaving the rice is an easy way to make the meal fast and it allows you to focus more on the other ingredients.

While the rice is heating up in the microwave, put a pan on the stove at low to medium heat and drizzle a little olive oil in the pan. Then put some corn that you can either shuck off a cob or buy canned and drain into the pan, and let it cook for several minutes until it starts to char.

Next, drain some canned black beans and dry them before putting them in the bowl with the kale, brown rice and corn. Chop up the red onion into small chunks that look like bite size pieces, and then sprinkle those chunks into the bowl along with the feta cheese and crumbled pita chips. Last but not least, halve the avocado and mash it up into several large chunks to put in the bowl.

As for dressing, you probably won’t be able to recreate the Roots salad dressing verbatim, but there are some substitutes. You can get bottled Brianna’s creamy cilantro lime dressing or Stonewall Kitchen’s cilantro lime dressing. If you want to make the dressing yourself, mix together two tablespoons of fresh lime juice, one clove of minced garlic, half a teaspoon of sugar, 1/2 a teaspoon of salt, 1/8 of a teaspoon of coriander, two tablespoons of olive oil and one tablespoon of fresh cilantro. Then add the Tabasco and slice of lime to your Roots bowl and you’ve got a DIY El Jefe.

Any Roots bowl can be recreated through these methods using the different ingredients included in each bowl. So now this summer you can whip up a Mayweather, Pesto Caesar or El Jefe anytime you’re craving Roots on vacation or while you’re working. Hopefully this will hold you over until you can get back to Charlottesville for the real thing.

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