One of our favorite quickly-prepared meals around here is called Big Bowl, or Bowls, and a Big Bowl meal means that all the starch, protein, and veggies are prepared and served together in one large soup bowl. Pretty solid name, huh? But the trick with a Bowls meal is to keep it interesting, tasty, with varied textures, and (most importantly) CHEAP. If you're handy in the kitchen you can really jazz this up. I hope some of you will send along your ideas on how to use garden produce in more ways with our bowls!
Here's last night’s "recipe" (made up on the fly) because it was especially good. And it shares some tricks that can make a small portion of meat extra tasty, the rice extra yummy, and the veggies super crispy.
STARCH BASE: For this recipe, 1 cup of dry rice measured and set aside. Can be any type, last night we used regular long grain white rice.
GARDEN CROPS: A collection of greens, veggies, and bits from the garden. Last night we had one large carrot in the fridge, a head of slightly browning cauliflower, radishes, a white onion from storage, and a collection of lettuce and kale leaves just picked and washed in the salad spinner.
PROTEIN: Chicken breast. We used a large, skinless and boneless one.
SEASONINGS/FATS: Extras like some butter, salt, sugar, soy sauce, and seasoning. Mostly you can get away with roasted chicken seasoning as a multi use seasoning in this system, but having some red chili flakes, adobo, sesame seeds, etc makes it even better.
Okay read all of this before you start. You may have a better order or system. All of this is a suggestion and I usually have all components going at once. It's a happy chaos of stuff we grew, pans rattling, flavors dancing... YUM! But in general, preheat your oven to 425°, get a cast iron skillet warming at medium high heat on the burner.
1. Make your rice! If you don’t know how to make rice: Boil 2 cups of water in a covered saucepan, once at a boil add in the cup of rice. Stir it up and add two teaspoons of butter or oil, some salt to taste, cover and let simmer for 10 minutes or so until the rice has absorbed all the water. Stir and fluff when it does.
2. Dice up the veggies into small bits, this lets them cook faster and get coated easily in oil and herbs. In my case I chopped up the carrot, onions, kale, radishes. (I de-stem the kale if it’s a big leaf). You’re growing that garden to eat it, so don’t be shy. But if your garden is new like ours, take what you can as it grows! This recipe used lettuce leaves (like 8), 2 small radishes, a couple pieces of kale, and some grocery store bits. For two people these small amounts were perfect. I put them in a hot cast iron skillet with a little olive oil and sprinkled a little sugar over them to caramelize. Keep them moving around in there, so they all get a chance to cook evenly,
3. While the rice is ricing and the veggies are browning a little on the edges, take some yummy main course veggies. Something with substance. Cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, that kind of deal. If your garden is producing those yet you can take frozen veggies like this RIGHT OUT OF THE FROZEN BAG and season them with some oil and chicken roasting spices, and bake them at 425° 10-15 minutes until crispy. Works a treat. I baked the fresh cauliflower coated in light oil and seasoning this way, too.
4. On a stove-stop skillet, brown the herb coated fat chicken breast on each side for about 5 minutes so it starts to cook through. Here’s the trick, FINISH cooking it in the oven at 350° for another 10 minutes or so. What you get is a moist, not chewy, perfectly cooked bake chicken breast with the browned and crispy outer edges.
We DO NOT skimp on seasoning here. Chickens get a rub of oil or butter, roasting species, lots of powdered or fresh garlic, adobo, chili flakes, maybe a splash of soy sauce. The herb coating is thick and a little crunchy and the chicken is so yummy oven finished. If you’re not sure it’s cooked all the way through, slice it in half and make sure there’s no distinct pinkness.
5. Bring it all together! Add the buttered rice to the veggie skillet, warm it up, brown the rice a bit, add more oil or butter if you need a little to help it brown without burning. Here is where I add some chopped spinach too. You get this colorful and lovely friend rice. And that is the base of the Big Bowl. Grab some fresh salad greens and set them on top. Add on top of that a big helping of the roasted veggies and the sliced, yummy, herb baked chicken. For some citrus I squirted a little fresh lemon on the chicken and sprinkled sesame seeds on top.
I set out the bowls with some soy sauce and salt . The eater can mix it all together (what we do) or pick and choose from the bowl what goes on every fork. But this meal comes together fast and uses mostly the garden and cheap rice. Two people can have a filling feast on one large chicken breast and a bag of frozen cauliflower. If you're vegetarian swap it with tofu or just use the veggies. Can’t recommend it enough. It’s filling, delicious, includes the garden, chickens, and cupboard, and usually there’s enough left over for lunch tomorrow.
That’s how we do up a big bowl of goodness from this farm. One of us can whip this up in about 30 minutes or less while the other is outside carrying buckets or going through the evening chores. It’s easy to play jazz with. You can carry your bowl outside and eat it on your porch/hill. You can curl up on the couch with it and start binging a TV show. It's meant to be yummy, self contained, cheap, and easy to reheat or re use for other meals too. Like the rice can be tomorrow's burrito base.
We’ve really mixed these bowls up. Shannon's used a single fried porkchop instead of chicken. We’ve used a base of egg noodles or pasta instead of rice. We’ve used a scrambled egg with the rice with just veggies. We’ve made amazing versions of this with farro and couscous. Have fun with it! Use that bag of frozen shrimp! Get that avocado out and dice chunks on top!
It’s a big yummy bowl. If you’re like me you’ll eat with chopsticks and savor every bite. After all, we aren’t here doing all this to not be eating what we grow. This makes so many tasty options. Try it!