Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of Great Bowls of Food: Grain Bowls, Buddha Bowls, Broth Bowls and More by Robin Asbell and Countryman Press in exchange for a review and sharing of a recipe. As always, my opinions are my own. Thanks for Robin for supporting Relishments!
Some people hate when their food touches. I am not one of those people. If I can put all the ingredients for a meal into one bowl and serve it like that, I’m thrilled. I find bowls to be the perfect meal vehicle and I love mixing flavors and ingredients together. My recipes for Spaghetti Squash Puttanesca, Jambalaya-Style Rice with Shrimp or Swiss Chard Topped Farro with Crumbled Bacon are good examples of this tendency.
I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. This knowledge was compounded by the arrival of Great Bowls of Food: Grain Bowls, Buddha Bowls, Broth Bowls and More by Robin Asbell arriving in my mailbox a while back. Last year I reviewed Robin’s book The Whole Grain Promise and loved it. I was really excited to break into another book of hers.
Once again, Robin has created a beautiful book. There are templates and a section on improvising one’s own bowl and nutrition facts for grains and toppings. I especially enjoyed the section on cooking and warming grains; there’s a two page table listing the amount of required water, cook time and yield, as well as how to adjust to make larger quantities. Since I buy a lot of my grains in bulk, I’m always looking up cooking instructions and these pages make life a lot easier. An entire section of condiments (14 recipes!) to be used on any bowl comes next, followed by chapters dedicated to breakfast, lunch, dinner, brothy, big party platter and dessert bowls. Nearly every recipe includes a picture and fits on a single page.
There are a lot of recipes in this book I’m looking forward to trying – Coconut “Bacon”; Creamy Goat Cheese and Tomato Sauce; Pumpkin Spice Brown Rice with Ricotta; Salmon Bowl with Quinoa, Cabbage, Apple and Caraway Yogurt Dressing; Japanese Soba Bowl with Hemp-Coated Tofu, Slaw, Ginger, Greens and Wasabi Cream. As you may be able to tell from the recipe titles, the recipes in Great Bowls of Food vary in difficulty. The first recipe I made, Pizza Bowl with Soft Polenta, Spinach and Mozzarella turned out awesome and only required 8 ingredients (including water and salt). On the other hand, some of the recipes in the book seem a little less approachable to me because of the number of ingredients, use of some specialty ingredients I don’t generally buy or the use of ingredients that aren’t in season at the same time. I definitely plan to make substitutions in some of the recipes so that I can try them out because the overall flavor combinations sound incredible in almost all of the recipes.
Another one of the recipes I’ve tried so far and loved was Soft Polenta with Roasted Smoky Chickpeas, Grape Tomatoes, Chard, and Creamy Basil Sauce. Even here I made a substitution – it seems impossible to track down a small container of plain (non-Greek) yogurt at my supermarket and I wouldn’t have eaten the leftover non-Greek yogurt (I’m a yogurt snob). So, I used Greek in the recipe. The result was a “sauce” that was more like a dip, but it was still delicious and I’d definitely make it again. I was really pleased with how good my finish bowl looked, even if it seems a bit more crowded than the book’s picture. May I just need bigger bowls.
I will definitely be making this dish again, which bodes well for other recipes in Great Bowls of Food that I haven’t tried yet. The Roasted Smoky Chickpeas were fantastic and easy to make (why do I not roast chickpeas more often?), but the star of the show was definitely the Creamy Basil Sauce. Though mine was very thick, the flavor was amazing. I could definitely see myself making a batch to put on top of other meals or salads. This bowl tastes like summer and though it involves a bit of organization because the chickpeas, polenta and chard are all cooked separately before being combined in the bowl, none of the steps are difficult.
Soft Polenta with Roasted Smoky Chickpeas, Grape Tomatoes, Chard, and Creamy Basil Sauce
- 1½ cups medium-grind cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon salt divided
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil divided
- 1½ cups cooked chickpeas rinsed and drained
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 cup fresh basil
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 ounces chèvre goat cheese
- ½ cup plain yogurt not Greek*
- 1 large bunch chard washed, stemmed and dried
- 1 cup grape tomatoes halved
- *I used Greek which created a thick, but delicious, sauce
- In a 2-quart saucepan, combine the cornmeal and ½ teaspoon salt, then gradually whisk in the water and milk. Over medium heat, whisk while it comes to a boil. Reduce heat to keep it just bubbling, and scrape the bottom of the pan as you stir every 5 minutes for about 20 to 30 minutes. When it reaches the desired thickness, stir in Parmesan. Keep warm.
- In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the drained chickpeas and shake in the pan, rolling them around until they start to pop and crackle. Cook for about 5 minutes, until slightly browned. Sprinkle with smoked paprika and ¼ teaspoon salt, then transfer to a bowl.
- In a food processor, mince the basil and garlic. Add the chèvre and yogurt and 1 tablespoon of olive oil and process until smooth.
- In the large sauté pan, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the chard until wilted and dark green, and add remaining ¼ teaspoon salt.
- Serve ¼ of the polenta in each bowl, topped with ¼ of the chard and chickpeas, ¼ of the grape tomatoes, and drizzled with 3 tablespoons of basil sauce per bowl.
Get the book: Great Bowls of Food: Grain Bowls, Buddha Bowls, Broth Bowls and More by Robin Asbell