The one-dish meal is having its moment. The bowl craze started with the smoothie bowl and has since become a menu staple in many kitchens and restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even if you haven’t seen one of these protein-packed bowls on a menu, you’ve likely seen one on your Instagram feed.
Though its contents may vary, most grain bowls follow a simple blueprint. It begins with a grain base, like rice or quinoa. Then, you could spoon almost anything over your grains and call the result a bowl (and some do). But the best bowls have a balanced combination of flavors and textures, and of vegetables, proteins, sauces and garnishes. Let your creativity soar in the combination of toppings and you’ll be surprised with the results!
Once you have selected your grains, you then need veggies – preferably something green, like kale or spinach. Raw, cooked or steamed vegetables will work great too.
Now you need a protein. Think of small amounts of braised or roasted meats, whether left over or freshly cooked. Beans are a great option as well. Adding a soft-cooked egg, preferably one with a runny yolk to coat the other ingredients like an instant sauce, is always a great idea.
Once you have the bowl assembled – grains, vegetables and protein – it’s time to think about garnishes, which add character and depth. Something pickled or pungent keeps things interesting, and something crunchy (sesame seeds or nuts) diversifies the textures.
Finally, a sauce on the side for everyone to mix in to taste. Use ingredients that mesh with the flavors of the bowl. Combine soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and rice vinegar or lime juice for Asian-inspired combinations. Pesto goes nicely with roasted red peppers, eggplant or anything else vaguely Mediterranean. A simple salsa works great for a Latin inspired bowl. Bottled hot sauce provides spice to the fire-toothed. And a basic vinaigrette will get along with practically anything else.
Another reason for grain bowls’ popularity is that they’re very customizable. Mix and match. Then mix and match again. If you do it right, you will never serve the same bowl twice – not unless you want to, that is.
Last but not least, bowls can be seasonal! In today’s world of mass production and far-flung distribution, the seasons blend together. Fruits and veggies that used to be available just once a year can now be found 365 days a year. However, thanks to our local farmers we can enjoy ingredients at their prime and find them more flavorful and nutritious than their off-season counterparts.
No wonder the bowl has become a favorite way of eating: out of a bowl, fresh ingredients, bold seasonal flavors, and various textures and temperatures. I’m in – time to mix and match!
Sara Balcazar-Greene (aka. Peruvian Chick)
Peruvian Food Ambassador
Kale-Pesto Quinoa Bowl
2 large eggs
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 avocado ¼ cup homemade pesto
1 roma tomato, chopped
1 cup baby broccolini, lightly sautéed with salt and pepper
1 cup mushrooms, lightly sautéed with salt and pepper
For the pesto:
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1 cup fresh kale leaves
¼ cup parmesan cheese
¼ cup pine nuts + plus a handful for garnishing
1 large garlic clove
3 – 4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt + pepper to taste
Cook the eggs to your liking. I like mine runny so I cook them for exactly 7 minutes in boiling water.
While the eggs are cooking, add all the pesto ingredients to a food processor. Process until almost smooth.
Prepare your breakfast bowls: Add 1 cup quinoa, broccolini, mushrooms, tomatoes and half of the avocado thinly sliced and pesto sauce to taste.
When eggs have cooled, peel them and slice in half. Add to the bowl and sprinkle with pine nuts.