ACHIEVE YOUR BOWLS.
The possibilities are endless. It’s basically like making a giant salad with a lot more add ins and less leafy greens. Start by choosing a hearty base and layer ingredients from there. I usually choose a theme to help guide my vegetable, spice, and grain selection. Here’s a little guide to get you started with ingredient options and suggestions. I also threw in a recipe (of course).
GRAIN. Lots of options here. I usually think of grains as my first layer. They provide fiber and satisfaction, helping fill our tummies. Some of my favorites include farro, freekeh, and barley. Other gluten-free options include quinoa, rice (wild or brown, steamed or bloomed), and millet. Explore your local market and try something new! Also consider flavoring your grain. You could easily toss in cinnamon, paprika, or fresh herbs to liven them up a bit. Why not?
FRESH PRODUCE. Use what is in abundance at the store or what you have in your fridge. Seasonal is, of course, best. This is where I think back to my theme or flavor profile for the dish. Is it Greek? Then tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, and oregano are in order. Are root vegetables in abundance? I look to carrots, beets, and radishes. To create different textures, I might spiralize my carrots, thinly slice the radishes, and grate the beets. Your produce can be raw, roasted, or even marinated. Chopping the vegetables into bite-sized pieces makes your bowl easier to eat too. I almost always incorporate a fresh herb or two. Parsley is so easy to toss in with your veggies or grains and will really make the dish pop.
PROTEIN. Meat protein and vegetarian protein are both equally great options. You can choose one over the other or use both at once! Don’t rule out leftover meat. Grilled chicken can be sliced and placed on top to crown your bowl. You could also pull meat from a whole-roasted chicken. Some other ideas include roasted or marinated mushrooms, a scrambled or poached egg, tempeh, or legumes. I often add legumes to my bowls. Beans, lentils, and garbanzos all make terrific additions or even replacements to using grains.
FINISHING TOUCHES. I will often whip up a dressing, sauce, or salsa so that the end product doesn’t end up too dry. A dressing drizzled over your whole bowl can pull all of the ingredients together and, let’s face it, make it that much more yummy. Even a simple vinaigrette will do! After you find the perfect condiment, consider the different textures of your bowl. Do you have a creamy element like cheese or hummus? What about some crunch? Maybe you serve some vegetables raw or sprinkle nuts and seeds on top. Finally, what will make the bowl really sing? Does it need a hit of acid or a touch of sweet? Perhaps you should add a dusting of lemon zest or some fruit (think blueberries, dates, or golden raisins). Superfoods always add something special. I love adding raw hemp seeds for added nuttiness or mulberries for a little sweet.
The recipe I decided to feature is the perfect example of how to build a bowl. It’s not really that complicated and is truly a result of spontaneous inspiration. It’s not super thought out but rather pulled together from what was already in my pantry. Truth be told, I built this bowl to empty my fridge (another great reason to make bowls). I hate throwing good food away! My ingredients are based off of what was in my pantry. And while sweet potatoes aren’t in season, they are available year round. I had a couple of extra potatoes left over from some recipe testing and thought I’d put them to good use in a bowl.
The flavors of this recipe lean Mexican with smokey chipotle powder, avocados, and a zippy tomatillo salsa, but the grain I chose, freekeh, is absolutely Middle-Eastern. It’s similar to spelt berries or barley and packed with fiber. Creamy ricotta, traditionally Italian, was given a twist with shredded coconut and lime. Even if you don’t end up creating your very own bowl, you might consider at least trying this tomatillo salsa recipe with some tortilla chips. My friend, Michelle, inspired the tomatillo salsa. I can’t guarantee it’s her exact recipe. Because in her typical fun-loving style, she nonchalantly rattled off ingredients and instructed me to throw them in a blender. “It’s easy!” she said. The first time I tried hers, I was addicted. I hope she feels this recipe does hers justice.
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed into ¾” cubes
- ¼ tsp chipotle powder (may substitute paprika)
- 1 Tbsp expeller pressed vegetable oil, avocado oil, or melted coconut oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Zest of 1 lime, divided
- 1 tsp lime juice
- ¾ cup ricotta, low fat
- ¼ cup shredded coconut (unsweetened) and a little more for garnish
- 1 cup freekeh (spelt berries, bulgur wheat, farro, or quinoa)
- 1 avocado, diced
- Sea salt and black pepper
- Basil chiffonade for garnish
- Tomatillo salsa (recipe follows)
- Heat oven to 425.
- Begin by cooking the freekeh. Bring 2 ½ cups of water to a boil and add a pinch of salt. Add the freekeh, cover and reduce heat to low. Allow to simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand covered for 5 minutes. Drain off any excess water. Season with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of oil.
- Meanwhile, toss the cubed sweet potato in 1 tsp sea salt, chipotle powder, and 1 Tbsp oil. Evenly spread out the pieces in a baking dish or sheet tray and cook in preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until tender. At the last few minutes of cooking, pull the sweet potatoes out and add the 1 clove of minced garlic and half of the lime zest.
- In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, shredded coconut, a pinch of salt, lime juice, and the remaining lime zest. Stir until combined and set aside for assembly.
- To assemble, put about 1 cup of the freekeh in a bowl. Beside it a ½ cup of the sweet potato. Next the diced avocado. Drizzle the tomatillo salsa over the avocado. And top the bowl with a dollop of the ricotta. FInish with a sprinkling of fresh basil and shredded coconut.
- 6 tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed
- 1 jalapeno or ½ serrano
- 2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
- ⅓ cup white onion, diced
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Toss the tomatillos and hot pepper in oil and salt. In a 450 degree oven, roast the tomatillos and jalapeno until blistering. You may turn on the broiler to achieve black blistering or cook the tomatillos and jalapeno on the grill.
- Remove from oven and place tomatillo, jalapeno (stem removed), diced onion, minced garlic, and cilantro in a blender. Blend until combined. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed. Chill in the refrigerator.