“Bowls” are taking over the blogosphere. Rice bowls, tofu bowls, noodle bowls, even smoothie bowls are super trendy right now. This makes me happy for a number of reasons: 1) bowls are easy and fast to put together; 2) they allow you to use up small amounts of produce and other leftovers that don’t form a complete meal on their own; and 3) they force you to embrace variety in tastes, textures and nutrients. Kind of like a well balanced salad.
Bowls have been on my weeknight recipe radar long before they were a “thing”, but they were saved for lazy days and didn’t look nearly as good as the beautiful concoctions all over Pinterest! Let’s just say they were restricted to solo dinners in front of the TV.
To make a good bowl, you need a protein, a grain and one or more vegetables. You can also include some extra elements for flavour (such as dressings, fresh herbs, dips or sauces) and texture (like nuts, seeds, bean sprouts). Here is the general formula I follow when throwing together a bowl for lunch or dinner:
- Pick a protein – chicken, turkey, steak, pork tenderloin, fish, shrimp, tofu or legumes
- Select a grain – quinoa, couscous, millet, bulgur, farro, barley, Asian noodles, whole grain pasta, brown rice, wild rice, wheatberries
- Pile on the veggies (and fruit) – endless possibilities! Think grilled, roasted, steamed, stir-fried, baked, raw. Include salad greens to add bulk if needed
- Add some texture – nuts, seeds, cheese, sprouts, dried fruit
- Decide on a dressing or sauce – homemade vinaigrette, soy sauce, Greek yogurt, hummus, pesto, hot sauce, light cream dressing
Then arrange in a big bowl (artfully or not depending on your mood!) and dig in. It’s such an easy way to form a balanced meal.
You can also experiment with the seasons and make bowls themed around in-season produce in your area. For summer, think tomatoes, corn and black beans with cilantro-scented couscous and grilled shrimp. When fall rolls around, try roasted butternut squash, wild rice and sriracha-marinated tofu topped with crunchy toasted butternut squash seeds.
This chicken quinoa bowl is my ode to the start of grilling season. I didn’t bust out our actual barbecue when I made it (the propane tank needs a re-fill after its winter hibernation) but instead used my cast-iron grill pan. It gets piping hot and holds heat well, so you’re able to get a really good sear – an essential element of good grilling!
The chicken was marinated in a mixture of olive oil, dried oregano and lemon juice and zest for about 30 minutes before grilling. It’s a classic flavour combination that never gets old.
To continue with the Mediterranean flavours, I added some cooling fresh mint to the cooked quinoa. You can really use any type of grain such as barley, farro, millet or brown rice (stop by my ancient grains board on Pinterest for some ideas), but I had quinoa in the cupboard so that’s what I used.
- 1 cup quinoa
- Leaves from 1 sprig fresh mint, finely chopped
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded between two sheets of parchment to an even thickness
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 cups baby greens or lettuce
- 1 cup shredded carrot
- 1/2 cup basic homemade vinaigrette salad dressing (recipe here: http://www.ricottaandradishes.com/dressings-sauces-and-condiments/homemade-vinaigrette-salad-dressing/)
- Cook the quinoa according to package directions. Fluff with a fork, season with salt and pepper and stir in the mint. Set aside.
- Combine the chicken in a shallow dish or ziploc bag with the oregano, lemon juice and zest, green onions and olive oil. Marinate, refrigerated, for at least 30 minutes. Discard marinade.
- Coat a cast-iron grill pan with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Add to the pan and cook, undisturbed, for about 6 minutes on each side or until done. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let it rest 5 minutes before slicing.
- Divide the greens/lettuce and carrots among two serving bowls. Top each with a few spoonfuls of the quinoa and arrange the chicken on top. Pour the dressing over each and serve immediately.