There’s something comforting about eating out of a bowl.
Maybe it’s the soothing nature of cupping a warm bowl in our hands. Or perhaps it takes us back to our youth, when a complete meal all mixed into one delicious melange was so much simpler – and quicker – to eat.
Whatever the reason, bowl food is hot these days. And one way to serve bowl food is to start with hot rice. Make it brown or white. Jasmine or basmati. Long grain or short. Even wild, which we know isn’t really rice but a water-grass seed.
From that base, start piling on the ingredients. It can have an Italian, Japanese or Mexican accent. It can be vegetarian or vegan, or loaded with meat. To add even more flavor, cook the rice in broth instead of water, adding minced garlic or shallots if you’d like.
One cup of uncooked rice will provide enough starch for two to three dinner portions, which is about how many each recipe serves, depending on appetites and the additional ingredients. If you’ve got any left over, rice bowls make perfect desk-side dining.
There’s lot of room for experimentation using seasonal products and the powdered sauce mixes – such as fajita or sweet and sour – you’ll find in various aisles in the grocery. These suggestions offer a place to start.
1. Sausage & Spinach: Saute 1 pound hot Italian sausage until brown and crumbly. (Buy in tube or remove from casings.) Add 2 large, minced garlic cloves and cook for another couple minutes. Add a bag of baby spinach leaves and cook until wilted. Serve over brown rice with shredded Parmesan cheese.
2. Red Beans & Rice: Saute 1/2 diced onion and a couple of cloves of garlic in a bit of olive oil until soft. Add 2 cans of drained and rinsed kidney beans plus a cup of broth, along with 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning and some crushed red pepper if you want more heat. Serve the soupy beans with white rice and sliced scallions for garnish.
3. Cuban-style: Bake a 1-pound mojo-marinated pork tenderloin according to package instructions, along with sliced onions. Set aside onions and cut pork into 1/2-inch (or smaller) chunks. Mix both with yellow rice and top with crushed plantain chips. Hot sauce optional.
4. Mediterranean: Mix pitted marinated olives that are coarsely chopped with orange juice and orange zest. Stir into brown rice and top with grated hard ricotta.
5. Mushrooms, Wild Rice & Feta: It’s not a grain, but the seed of a water grass; still wild rice is a nutty base for sauteed button mushrooms. Brighten with feta cheese crumbles and snipped fresh chives.
6. Sloppy Joe: Top rice with beefy sloppy Joe mixture and lots of shredded Cheddar cheese. Garnish with French-fried onions.
7. Shrimp & Wild Mushrooms: Saute a mixture of wild mushrooms in olive oil, then blanch julienned carrots and red bell peppers, plus sugar snap peas. Mix all with rice, top with grilled or sauteed shrimp and drizzle with lime-spiked Ponzu sauce.
8. Steak, Asparagus & Fried Egg: Grill marinated skirt steak or slice leftover beef in strips. Stir together rice and 1-inch lengths of lightly cooked asparagus. Add the beef and then a fried egg on top.
9. Ham & Peas: Dice ham and mix with rice and peas, plus fresh thyme leaves and lots of lemon zest. Scoop over rice and finish with Parmesan cheese.
10. Fajita: Make chicken with a package of fajita flavoring, according to instructions. Serve over rice along with sauteed onions and bell peppers. Top with guacamole and a dollop of sour cream.
11. Teriyaki: Prepare pork or chicken with teriyaki sauce, layer over brown rice studded with pineapple chunks. Garnish with sesame seeds and chow mein noodles.
12. Fruit, Nuts & Cheese: Use fragrant jasmine rice as the base for dried cherries, toasted pecans and blue cheese crumbles.