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Bowl them over with one-dish meals

June 13, 2016

Nigella Lawson's rice bowl features dinger, radish and avocado. We added grilled tofu for extra protein.

Bowls used to evoke visions of Oliver Twist hold one while posing that fateful request: "Please sir, I want some more." But Dicken’s famous waif has been pushed aside in my mind by another Brit, celebrity chef Nigella Lawson, who poses on the cover of her 2015 cookbook holding a stack of pristine white bowls in her hands.

"If I could, I’d eat everything out of a bowl," Lawson writes in "Simply Nigella," in which she gives what she calls "bowlfood" a chapter of its own. "For me ‘bowlfood’ is a simple shorthand for food that is simultaneously soothing, bolstering, undemanding, and sustaining."

The word might also be considered shorthand for a new way of eating — as the bowl takes over the dinner plate as the meal vessel of choice in restaurants and at home, it has come to mean a category of food, with all the elements of a meal together.

"Most bowls are very component-oriented: grain, proteins, vegetables, sauce," said Lukas Volger of Brooklyn, N.Y., author of "Bowl" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25). "It makes sense in a bowl."

His book is one of four recently published bowlcentric cookbooks that highlight the good-for-you and improvisational nature of this style of cooking and eating.

Allison Day, author of "Whole Bowls" (Skyhorse, $24.99), says people want to re-create at home the "vibrant and international flavors" they enjoy in restaurants but in a "more approachable way" where they can pick and choose ingredients and have the flexibility in meal planning they desire.

Healthy is an important part of the bowl’s appeal. Day’s book is subtitled, "Complete Gluten-Free and Vegetarian Meals to Power Your Day." Volger’s book is vegetarian. "The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl + Spoon" (Ten Speed, $25) by the California chef and writer Sara Forte promises "simple and inspired whole foods recipes to savor and share."

"A bowl lends itself to healthy eating," Volger said. "It so clean and straightforward."

Ditto for the process of assembly. You can follow the recipes or use a basic building-block approach to assembling a main-dish bowl.

Robin Asbell offers a template on how to build a bowl in her new book, "Great Bowls of Food" (Countryman Press, $21.95). Start with about 3/4 to 1 cup of the grain or starch (or an alternative like sweet potato "rice" or zucchini "noodles") as a base, then add your protein, vegetables, dressing broth or sauce, and finally the garnishes.

"The ones that look the most beautiful have the most color and a combination of different colors and textures," Volger said.

What might be more challenging than building a bowl is finding the right bowl to use. Asbell urges readers to "mindfully" select their bowls.

"Some of the bowl ingredients like to sprawl out in a wide pasta bowl-type dish. A bowl of this kind offers a wider surface to arrange your lovely toppings," she writes. "Other recipes are for times when you want to feel comforted by the abundance of a deep bowl with its round belly."

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SPRING RICE BOWLS WITH CHIVE OIL

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 60 minutes

Makes: 4 servings

From "Whole Bowls" by Allison Day, creator of the Yummy Beet blog (www.yummybeet.com

Bowls:

1 cup uncooked short grain brown rice

2 cups water

1 pound asparagus, tough ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 cups cooked chickpeas

3/4 cup fresh or dry, cooked and peeled, or frozen, defrosted fava beans

2 carrots, julienned, shaved, or shredded

Chive oil:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon finely diced fresh chives, plus chive blossoms for garish, optional

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Ground black pepper, to taste

1. Make the bowls. For the brown rice, in a medium saucepan, bring water and rice to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes. Steam, covered, for 5 minutes; fluff with fork before serving.

2. For the asparagus, add to a large-rimmed baking sheet. Roast in a preheated 400-degree oven for 10 minutes. Alternatively, steam asparagus for 3 to 5 minutes.

3. In a medium bowl, combine chickpeas with fava beans.

4. Make the chive oil: In a small bowl, combine all chive oil ingredients.

5. To serve. To bowls, arrange brown rice, chickpeas and fava beans, asparagus and carrot. Drizzle with chive oil and garnish with chive blossoms (if using). Serve warm or chilled.

Nutrition information per serving: 525 calories, 24 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 68 g carbohydrates, 1 g sugar, 14 g protein, 811 mg sodium, 12 g fiber

GRITS WITH SPICY COLLARDS, SHRIMP, ROASTED RED PEPPERS AND AIOLI DRIZZLE

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes

Makes: 4 servings

A recipe from Robin Asbell’s "Great Bowls of Food." Polenta may be used instead of grits, she writes.

3 cups water

1 cup grits

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 clove garlic, pressed

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 bunch collard greens, stems removed, sliced

1 teaspoon water

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined

2 jarred medium roasted red peppers, drained, sliced (or homemade)

1. Heat the water to a boil in a 1-quart pot over high heat. Stir in the grits and half the salt; cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Remove pan from the heat, cover and let stand to thicken, about for 5 minutes (or follow package directions).

2. While the grits cook, stir together the mayonnaise, garlic and lemon juice in a small bowl. Set aside.

3. In a large skillet, heat half the olive oil over medium-high heat; add the collard greens. Stir to wilt, then sprinkle in 1 teaspoon water; cover the pan. Cook until softened, 2 minutes.

4. Scrape the greens into another bowl. Add the remaining olive oil to the same skillet; heat over medium-high heat. Add the red pepper flakes, and shrimp; sprinkle with the remaining salt. Cook, stirring, until the shrimp are pink, lightly browned and cooked through, about 3 minutes depending on size.

5. Divide grits among four bowls. Top with the shrimp, place the greens beside the shrimp, garnish with red pepper slices and drizzle with mayonnaise mixture. Serve warm.

Nutrition information per serving: 382 calories, 11 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 188 mg cholesterol, 45 g carbohydrates, 6 g sugar, 30 g protein, 644 mg sodium, 6 g fiber

RICE BOWL WITH GINGER, RADISH AND AVOCADO

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 40 minutes

Makes: 2 servings

In her book "Simply Nigella," Nigella Lawson describes this as a "non-recipe recipe" because she makes it differently each time depending on what foods are available. Lawson usually uses raw radishes but writes that you may roast them, too: Halve the radishes, roast cut-side down with a little oil at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. We added tofu to the dish for additional protein, but you may leave it out.

3/4 cup uncooked short grain brown rice

1 cup cold water

2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled

4 to 6 radishes

1 1/2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce

1 teaspoon organic raw apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup mixed seeds, such as pumpkin, sunflower, sesame

3 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 small ripe avocado

Grilled firm tofu, cubed, optional

1. Put the rice and the water in a heavy saucepan that comes with a tight-fitting lid; bring to a boil over high heat. Once it’s bubbling, clamp on the lid, turn the heat down very low and simmer, 25 minutes. Then turn off the heat, leaving the lid on, and let it stand for another 5 minutes, by which time the rice will be cooked — but still nutty — and the water absorbed.

2. Meanwhile, shave the ginger into very thin strips with a vegetable peeler. Cut the radishes into quarters or eighths lengthwise, depending on their size.

3. When the rice is cooked, spoon into a mixing bowl. Add the tamari or soy sauce and the apple cider vinegar; toss with a fork to combine. Do the same with the ginger shavings, radishes and seeds. Stir all but a little of the chopped cilantro into the rice, still using a fork.

4. Divide rice between 2 smallish bowls; top with avocado, cut either into gondola-shaped slices or chunks. Add tofu, if using. Sprinkle with the remaining cilantro.

Nutrition information per serving: 525 calories, 24 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 68 g carbohydrates, 1 g sugar, 14 g protein, 811 mg sodium, 12 g fiber

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