Lord, I love a bowl. Rice bowl, quinoa bowl, ahi bowl, teriyaki zen bowl, any kind of nauseatingly trendy bowl, bring it on. I feel like a twit every time I use the term “bowl,” but the thing itself -- an assemblage of raw/cooked/pickled/creamy/crunchy/spicy/leafy ingredients with some kind of starch and unifying sauce in a single vessel -- I love unreservedly. I know Asians have been eating one-bowl meals forever, but when did bowls become a thing (to use another term that makes me feel like a twit), in the United States?
I like to eat bowls in restaurants because they often feature the Asian flavors I most love. Just yesterday, Mark and I stopped for lunch at KoJa Kitchen on Clement Street in San Francisco, a windswept counter-service Korean-Japanese restaurant with a lot of delectable bowls full of rich meats and zesty sauces on the menu. I ended up ordering a so-called KoJa, which was a warm sandwich between crispy-crusted rice cakes, but I thought about getting a bowl.
|All the dishes at KoJa Kitchen look like bowls even when they're not. The waffle fries at right are topped with barbecued beef, kimchi, mayonnaise, red sauce, and scallions -- totally a bowl!|
But while I love restaurant bowls, the most exciting application of the bowl concept, I think, is at home. What brought all this to mind was the roasted carrot and grain bowl I made last night from the new and very pretty vegetarian cookbook Love & Lemons.
|That's not a bowl on the cover, it's a salad.|
This recipe was healthy, moderately easy, cheap, and damned good. Into a bowl (obviously) you put cooked millet, roasted carrots, roasted tofu, avocado, chopped almonds, and lettuce. Now, toss some chunked raw carrots, garlic, oil, tahini, lemon juice, and orange juice into a blender, pulverize, pour over your bowl, and go watch Broadchurch.
Did I mention that bowls are ideal for eating in front of the TV?
It wasn’t the best bowl I’ve ever made. The best bowls I’ve ever made were from Ed Lee’s Smoke & Pickles, but then of course they were. Ed Lee is a restaurant chef and his bowls contain elaborate remoulade sauces and ingredients like salmon and pork belly. They are super-fattening and take forever to make, unlike that nice roasted carrot bowl.
I fell asleep last night inventing bowl recipes and spent a half hour this morning looking up bowl recipes online. Some of those recipes don’t meet my exacting definition of a bowl. What is my definition of a bowl? A bowl must contain some warm ingredients, and some cool. It needs a variety of textures, and some crunch is absolutely essential. Starches (rice, farro, quinoa) seem standard, though I could imagine a bowl without one. There should be a fatty treat in the bowl; if it’s a vegetarian bowl, that probably means cheese and/or nuts. There has to be a fantastically delicious sauce to bind everything together, of course, and a bowl must contain at least one vegetable. The vegetable is the whole point. There’s so much happening in a bowl, you don’t even realize you’re eating vegetables. If there’s no vegetable in the bowl, you might as well go have a burger.
Speaking of burgers, happy 4th of July! Everyone is pretty grumpy about this country right now, including me, but what do I really have to complain about? Nothing. We’re not having bowls for dinner tonight. Two middle-aged people eating bowls in front of the TV on Independence Day seemed sad. We’re not having burgers either, though. Two middle-aged people grilling burgers on a deck in the fog all by themselves also seemed sad. So we’re having roasted marrow bones and peach ice cream in front of the TV, which seemed weird and fun. Now I have to go make it happen.
|I'm on a quest for a great peach pie recipe. This wasn't it.|