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Bowls bring meal elements together in a compact space

  • CHICAGO TRIBUNE

    Grits with spicy collards, shrimp, roasted red peppers and aioli drizzle from Robin Asbell’s “Great Bowls of Food.”

  • CHICAGO TRIBUNE

    Nigella Lawson’s rice bowl features ginger, radish and avocado, with grilled tofu for extra protein.

  • CHICAGO TRIBUNE

    A spring rice bowl with chive oil from “Whole Bowls” by Allison Day.

Bowls used to evoke visions of Oliver Twist and that fateful request, “Please, sir, I want some more.” But Dickens’ 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.

“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 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 bowl-centric 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’s so clean and straightforward.”

Spring Rice Bowl With Chive Oil

“Whole Bowls,” by Allison Day

  • 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 fava beans (fresh or dry, cooked and peeled, or frozen, defrosted)
  • 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 garnish (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Pepper, to taste

In a medium saucepan, bring water and rice to boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook 45 minutes. Steam, covered, for 5 minutes; fluff with fork.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place asparagus on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Roast 10 minutes. Or, steam asparagus 3 to 5 minutes.

Combine chickpeas with fava beans in medium bowl.

In a small bowl, combine all chive oil ingredients.

To serve: Divide brown rice, chickpeas, fava beans, asparagus and carrots among 4 serving bowls. Drizzle with chive oil and garnish with chive blossoms (if using). Serve warm or chilled. Serves 4.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 525 calories, 24 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, no cholesterol, 68 g carbohydrates, 1 g sugar, 14 g protein, 811 mg sodium, 12 g fiber

Rice Bowl With Ginger, Radish and Avocado

“Simply Nigella,” by Nigella Lawson

  • 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, sliced
  • Grilled firm tofu, cubed (optional)

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

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

Spoon cooked rice into mixing bowl. Add tamari or soy sauce and vinegar; toss with fork to combine. Do the same with ginger, radishes and seeds. Stir cilantro into the rice, reserving a little for garnish, still using a fork.

Divide rice between 2 small bowls; top with avocado. Add tofu, if using. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro. Serves 2.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 525 calories, 24 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, no cholesterol, 68 g carbo­hydrates, 1 g sugar, 14 g protein, 811 mg sodium, 12 g fiber

Grits With Spicy Collards, Shrimp and Aioli Drizzle

“Great Bowls of Food,” by Robin Asbell

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup grits (may substitute polenta)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 bunch collard greens, stems removed, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined
  • 2 medium roasted red peppers, drained, sliced
  • >> Aioli:
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Bring 3 cups water to boil in 1-quart pot over high heat. Stir in grits and half the salt; cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, cover and let stand to thicken, about 5 minutes.

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

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

Combine aioli ingredients.

Divide grits among four bowls. Top with shrimp, place greens beside shrimp, garnish with red pepper slices and drizzle with aioli. Serve warm. Serves 4.

Approximate nutritional analysis, 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

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