These days I’m all about quick dinners. I’ve been doing a crossfit-style high intensity workout class for the last few months every night after Nick gets home from work which means that I get home around 7:30 and have a short time to prep dinner. “Bowl” meals are all the rage these days in restaurants but I think they should be a staple at home too: they involve minimal cooking, lots of fresh ingredients and deliver big flavor.
Banh Mi Rice Bowl
For those unfamiliar, a banh mi is a traditional Vietnamese sandwich developed when the country was part of French Indochina. It’s one of my favorite world dishes because it combines the best ingredients from French and Vietnamese cooking- pork prepared with soy sauce and sugars, cilantro, cucumbers, pickled carrots, jalapenos, mayonnaise and a crusty baguette. Sadly my diet doesn’t include baguettes, but, I managed to incorporate all the flavors of a banh mi into this easy bowl drawing on a few recipes and I highly recommend this dish. It’s simple but so, so, so delicious.
16 oz. ground pork
2 cups brown rice
3 long carrots, cut into matchsticks
6 radishes, cut into matchsticks
3 persian cucumbers, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1-in nub ginger, grated
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 tblsp soy sauce
1 head of red cabbage, sliced
1 tsp coconut sugar (brown sugar will work too)
1 jalapeno, sliced thinly (seeds removed if you’re spice-averse)
1 bunch cilantro, stems removed, roughly chopped
6 scallions, thinly sliced
Bring to boil 4 cups water or beef stock in a large saucepan with some salt. Add rice, lower heat, cover and simmer until cooked (about 40 minutes).
Put your matchstick carrots and radishes in a bowl with ¼ cup boiling water, rice wine vinegar and salt then set aside.
Over a medium flame, heat a 2 tsp olive oil with garlic, ginger and shallots until translucent, then add ground pork. After 3 minutes, add soy sauce and coconut sugar and season with ground pepper (and a little salt if your soy sauce is low sodium). Allow pork to brown on all sides. It should be dark in color when you remove from the pan – the sugar helps to caramelize the meat. Set meat aside.
When rice is finished cooking, place large scoops at bottom of bowl then group ingredients around the bowl on top – a few handfuls of pork, a bunch of pickled carrots and radishes, cabbage, cucumbers and jalapenos – then top with scallions and cilantro and serve!
Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl
I fell in love with sushi when I lived in London and my appreciation for it reached another level when I visited Hawaii. The tuna there is so fresh they barely touch it before serving, it’s so delicious and pure just the way it is. Now it’s actually relatively easy to access sushi-grade tuna and make Hawaiian poke bowls at home!
1 lb. sushi-grade tuna, cut into bite-sized cubes
2 persian cucumbers, cut into bite-sized cubes
1 handful pickled ginger
5 scallions, thinly sliced on a bias
2 cups shredded carrots
3 cups brown rice, cooked
2 cups mixed greens
½ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
In a bowl, mix vinegar, soy sauce and sesame oil with a generous handful of sesame. Let sit for about 20 minutes.
When tuna has marinated and changed color a bit, arrange bowls. Start with greens on the bottom then arrange sections of rice, cucumber, carrots, pickled ginger and tuna. Top with scallions and extra sesame seeds and serve!
Other ideas: grated carrots, add radish or daikon, mix wasabi into dressing, top ahi tuna with spicy mayo (sriracha or some other hot sauce mixed with mayonnaise), sugar snap peas or include soba noodles. If you don’t like raw fish, sear the tuna in a cast iron pan on all sides until slightly (or fully) cooked through.
These are just two I've made recently but there are loads of delicious takes on "bowl" eating and I encourage you to explore them all! I tend to use this approach again at the end of the week when we're trying to clear out the refrigerator - I'll roast whatever veggies I have left and mix them with a grain like farro of wheatberry with a zippy dressing and some herbs and before you know it, you've used all the last of your produce and made a delicious, filling meal in minutes. Happy cooking loves!