The art of the bowl


Bowls have saturated food blogging and social media for about two years now. I don't have an origin story from whence the trend first stemmed - except that I think it had something to do with Chipotle bowls and a thought on how to make them healthier.

As I've looked into making my own bowls, my greatest takeaway has been: why, oh why, do these take so long to make and why, oh why, do they require to use so many different pans and bowls? An hour roasting veggies; a sauté pan for meat; simmering quinoa, rice or couscous; and God only knows what else.

I decided to explore how to make a bowl efficiently and where exactly it made sense to cut corners without cutting flavor. 

So, I present to you a bowl that I can make in less than 20 minutes flat - including a full-flavored roasted red pepper pesto (if you're interested) and a protein - with only a microwave-safe bowl and a small non-stick sauté pan. The key to this process is simply using the microwave - cooking smarter, not harder. As called for below, you can find easy microwavable grains and beans at most grocery stores, including the food section of Walmart and Target.

While I suggest spinach and Brussels sprouts as your steamed greens, you can absolutely sub in broccoli, broccolini or kale. The main thing to remember as you cook your way through the individual components of this recipe is to season them with salt and pepper as you go to build up a balanced flavor.

This recipe serves 4 hungry people and is also pretty awesome to reheat.

What you need

For the bowl

1 8 oz microwavable package of whole grain quinoa, Israeli couscous or brown rice

1 8 oz microwavable package of green or black lentils

4 cups fresh spinach

4 cups shaved fresh Brussels sprouts

1 11.5 oz package of roasted sweet potatoes (available at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods)

1 lb ground beef

Water, as needed

Olive oil, as needed

Salt, to taste

Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

For the roasted red pepper pesto

1 cup jarred or canned roasted red peppers (about 6 oz)

1/4 cup pine nuts, walnuts or pecans

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp red chili flakes

1 tsp salt

How to do it

In a medium-sized microwavable bowl, add Brussels sprouts with 2 tablespoons of water. Cover with a lid or plate to keep in steam, and microwave for 2-3 minutes or until sprouts are tender. Set sprouts aside on some paper towels to drain, and season with a bit of salt and pepper. Next place spinach in the same bowl with 2 tablespoons of water, cover with a lid or plate, and microwave for 3-4 minutes or until spinach is wilted. Season the spinach  and set aside to drain on a paper towel, like the Brussels sprouts.

After steaming Brussels sprouts and spinach, begin the ground beef. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a small sauté pan and place over medium-high heat. After about 20 seconds, add ground beef and break up with a spoon. Season generously with salt and pepper as it cooks, and allow to cook for 8-10 minutes or until cooked through.

While the beef cooks, heat up the roasted sweet potatoes (about 3 minutes) and cook the rice and lentils according to the packaging specifications. 

If you're making the pesto, do so at this time. Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth, about 1 minute, and set aside.

Remove sauté pan from heat once the beef is cooked, and get ready to prepare your bowls.

Distribute each ingredient evenly among 4 bowls and serve immediately while hot. 

Store ingredients in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, and reheat using the microwave.