A meal that fits into a single bowl is appealing for multiple reasons. “For me, it really lends itself to healthy eating with whole-foods-oriented components,” says cookbook author Lukas Volger, a former vegetarian who still gives produce top billing in his books. Then there’s the inherent sense of ease: “When you’re cooking for one person, the bowl is portable in that way—you can take it to the sofa.” Third, of course, is Instagram, the square-oriented medium that, in the spirit of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, loves a circle. “The way you arrange the toppings, it’s a visual experience,” Volger explains of the evolved art of garnishing captured on so many feeds. “You want that overhead shot.”
This being food, you also want it to taste good, and Volger’s new book, Bowl: Vegetarian Recipes for Ramen, Pho, Bibimbap, Dumplings, and Other One-Dish Meals, aims to deliver on that front. He traces the impetus behind the project to a revelatory dining experience he had in Brooklyn about five years ago. “I got obsessed with this vegetarian ramen at Chuko, in Prospect Heights,” he recalls, noting that most meatless versions found elsewhere typically read as an afterthought. But that rich, flavorful meal, anchored by a seaweed-rich kombu broth, inspired him to tinker with other classic dishes from around the world.
During the five years the book has been in development, the bowl phenomenon—coupled with the rise of vegetable-forward eating—has gained serious traction, from elevated workday spots like Sweetgreen to the downtown hangout Café Henrie, where chef Camille Becerra is updating the macrobiotic-inspired Dragon Bowl in a residency that runs through April. As Becerra sees it, people are beginning to approach dining from more of a “sensory level—if your food is beautiful and colorful and tastes good and is healthful, then you feel better,” she says of her customizable bowls (turmeric-poached egg or chicken? Carrot-harissa sauce or chili bone broth?).
Deciding what goes inside the bowl is of chief importance, which is why we enlisted Volger and Becerra, along with three of our favorite cookbook authors—Amy Chaplin, Heidi Swanson, and Diana Yen—to share delicious (and gorgeous) recipes.
But the vessel, too, is key, as Volger learned during the photo shoot for his book, which introduced him to the world of local ceramics by the likes of Clam Lab, Jono Pandolfi, and Recreation Center. “I’ve since started collecting all these beautiful handmade bowls,” Volger says, “and it totally improves the eating experience.”
In addition to Bowl, out this week, and two earlier vegetarian cookbooks, Volger also produces a line of small-batch, ready-to-shape veggie burgers, called Made by Lukas. This take on pho, one of multiple versions in the book, is suited for the coming change in season—not to mention the inevitable spring cold, in which case you should “make it extra spicy,” he advises.
6 cups Vegetarian Pho Broth (recipe below) or Shortcut Pho Broth (page 217 in the book)
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. fine sea salt
1 bunch spring onions (about 8 ozs.)
1 bunch scallions (about 5 ozs.)
5 plump garlic cloves
2 T neutral-tasting oil
1 T rice vinegar
4 bunches baby bok choy (8 to 10 ozs. total), quartered lengthwise through the root
1 cup peas, either young ones with edible pods or shelled mature ones
8 ozs. medium-width rice noodles
1 small green chili (serrano, Thai chili, or jalapeño), sliced into very thin rings
2 cups loosely packed mixed fresh herbs, such as chervil, parsley, mint, cilantro, basil, and/or chives, for serving
Lime wedges, for serving
1. Place the pho broth in a pot and heat to a simmer. Stir in the sugar and salt and taste, adjusting the seasonings as necessary. Keep covered, off the heat, then bring back to a bare simmer just before serving.
2. Trim the root ends off the spring onions and scallions. Thinly slice both the white and green parts. Slice the garlic into thin slabs.
3. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the spring onions, scallions, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown and caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce the heat if the onions begin to burn, or raise it if they seem to be cooking too slowly. Pour in the vinegar and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits. Remove from the heat.
Bring a saucepan of salted water to boil. Add the bok choy and cook until the thickest parts of the stem are tender and can be easily pierced with a paring knife, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate with a spider skimmer, reserving the cooking water. Add the peas to the water and blanch for 30 seconds, just until the raw bite is gone. Transfer to a plate with a spider skimmer, again reserving the cooking water.
4. Add the noodles to the boiling water, in a strainer basket or the strainer insert that comes with your stockpot if you have one, and cook until tender, usually 4 to 7 minutes or according to the package instructions. Lift out the noodles, reserving the cooking water, and thoroughly rinse the noodles under cold running water in order to remove excess starch. Quickly dunk them back into the hot water to reheat. Divide among four bowls.
5. Top the noodles in each bowl with the bok choy, peas, caramelized onion mixture, and chilies. Ladle the hot broth over each serving. Serve immediately, passing the herbs and lime wedges at the table.
Vegetarian Pho Broth
Makes about 3 quarts, enough for two 4-serving batches
1 large or 2 small onions, peeled and quartered lengthwise
2 ozs. fresh ginger (a 3- to 4-inch piece, depending on thickness)
2 T peanut oil
2 medium leeks, white and green parts, coarsely chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 large carrots, coarsely chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 medium daikon radish (12 ozs.), peeled and coarsely chopped into 1-inch pieces
10 garlic cloves, peeled
1 stalk fresh lemongrass, smashed and coarsely chopped
3 whole star anise
3 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
5 dried shiitake mushrooms
Small handful of fresh cilantro stems
1. Preheat the broiler. Arrange the onions and ginger on a foil-lined baking sheet. Once the broiler is hot, broil the vegetables close to the heat source until charred all over, flipping them with tongs as needed. Remove the onions if they cook more quickly than the ginger, or vice versa.
2. Alternatively, char the onions and ginger over the open flame of a gas burner, turning them periodically, until blackened all over. This will need to be done in a few batches.
3. Heat the oil in a stockpot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the leeks, carrots, daikon, garlic, lemongrass, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, and fennel seeds. Stir to coat in the oil, then cover and cook for 5 minutes, until fragrant and the colors of the vegetables are vibrant. Coarsely chop the charred ginger, then add it, the onions, and the mushrooms to the pot and cover with cold water; you’ll need about 4 quarts. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for 1 hour, at which point the broth should be strongly flavored. Add the cilantro stems and cook for another 5 minutes.
4. Strain the broth through a cheesecloth-lined sieve, in batches as necessary, gathering up the ends of the cheesecloth so as to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Once completely cooled, pack in containers and store in the refrigerator for up to one day or in the freezer for up to two months.
Text excerpted from Bowl, © 2016 by Lukas Volger. Reproduced by permission of Rux Martin Books / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Since leaving Navy, the jewel box of a seafood restaurant in Soho, chef Camille Becerra has begun laying the groundwork for a cookbook and other projects, and is in residence at Café Henrie in the meantime. Since her Dragon Bowls change with every order—the one pictured here includes chickpeas, roasted vegetables, mizuna, herbs, lentil and fenugreek sprouts, roasted seeds (pumpkin and sunflower), pickled goji berries, and beet tahini sauce—she shares the recipe for the simple yet transformative coconut grains that form the base of the dish. “They are so delicious, even by themselves,” she says.
2 cups medium-grain brown rice
1/4 cup red quinoa
1/4 cup dried coconut
1 14 oz. can of unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup of water
1 1/2 tsp. salt
Add all the ingredients in a rice cooker and press play. Alternately, add all the ingredients in a pot, bring to a simmer, put a lid on it, and cook on low for 20 to 30 minutes.
A longtime vegetarian chef, Amy Chaplin earned a James Beard Award last year for her cookbook At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen: Celebrating the Art of Eating Well. In addition to teaching workshops, she has shaped how New Yorkers eat (as the former executive chef at the vegan restaurant Angelica Kitchen) and continues to do so: She’s currently developing a handful of healthy recipes for the model-favorite Cafe Gitane. For this Rainbow Bowl, she’s created a versatile dressing and shares details on the components—though improvisation is encouraged.
Fennel Dill Dressing With Lime and Mint
Makes about 2 cups
1 medium bulb fennel (2 cups diced)
2 cups roughly chopped dill, leaves and tender stems
1/2 cup mint leaves
1 small clove garlic
1 scallion, white part only 3 inches
1/4 cup raw cashews or macadamia nuts, soaked 2 to 4 hours in cold water
5 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/3 cup flax oil or extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. tamari, plus more to taste
Sea salt to taste
Place everything in an upright blender and blend until smooth. Add a little water to get desired consistency. Store in a jar in the fridge for three to four days.
You can top your Rainbow Bowl with a poached egg if you like or include some beans, chickpeas, or just eat it with avocado as I have here.
Forbidden Black Rice
Find recipe here or in my book.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Serves 4 to 6
The exact roasting time will depend on how large you cut the sweet potatoes.
2 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 3-inch wedges, about an inch thick
4 tsp. extra virgin olive oil or melted extra virgin coconut oil
Pinch of sea salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment and add sweet potatoes, oil, and a pinch of salt. Toss to combine and roast 2 minutes, turn each piece over and roast another 10 to 15 minutes or until browning and soft inside.
Serves 4 to 6
This recipe can be made in about 2 minutes flat. The amounts of lemon and oil will depend on the amount of kale in your bunch. Anything left over can be kept in the fridge for up to two days.
1 bunch purple kale, trimmed and cut in 1/2-inch slices
1 to 2 T fresh lemon juice
1 to 2 T extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste
Add kale to a medium bowl, drizzle with 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Massage kale until wilted, adding more lemon, olive oil, and salt to taste.
You can follow the same directions as making kimchi here (using only red cabbage) or find the recipe for pink kraut in my book. I love this brand. You can find it along with other naturally fermented vegetables in the refrigerator section of your health food store.
In my Rainbow Bowl I steamed kabocha squash, red and yellow carrots, watermelon radishes, broccoli, snow peas, frozen peas, and tatsoi. I recommend steaming all the vegetables separately so that they cook perfectly. Squash will take longer, broccoli greens and snow peas less time. Carrots and radishes I usually steam for 2 minutes or until cooked through. If you steam extra vegetables, you can reheat them in a steamer for a couple of minutes before eating.
Based in San Francisco, Heidi Swanson has had an outsize presence in the food-blog world over the last decade thanks to her website, 101 Cookbooks. She has since taken to roaming the globe as a writer and photographer, as chronicled in her most recent book, Near & Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel. Her eye for design also comes through in her housewares shop, Quitokeeto, where you can find the Colleen Hennessey bowl pictured here.
Mung Quinoa Power Bowl
Serves about 4
4 T clarified butter or olive oil
1 head celery cut into 1/2-inch segments
Fine grain sea salt
1 large clove garlic, very thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. red chili flakes
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. turmeric
2 tsp. smoked paprika
Big handful of dill, chopped
2 1/2 cups cooked mung beans
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 to 3/4 cups water, or as much as needed
Toppings: Lots of chopped green olives, lots of cherry or roasted cherry tomatoes, quick-pickled red onions, big dollops of salted dill yogurt, thick threads of olive oil
1. Heat the butter in a large pan over medium-high heat, stir in the celery along with a few large pinches of salt. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until the celery softens, and then starts to brown and caramelize.
2. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the chili flakes, ginger, turmeric, and paprika. Cook, stirring constantly, for another minute or until the spices are fragrant. Stir in the dill, the mung beans, the quinoa, and then 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of water—enough that the mixture is moist, not dry.
3. For serving, toppings are key; at the very least add a dollop of lightly salted yogurt to each bowl. Even better if you have any or all of the following on hand: green olives, salted dill yogurt, roasted cherry tomatoes, quick-pickled red onions, or shallots.
Served in a Colleen Hennessey bowl.
The creative force behind The Jewels of New York, an NYC-based culinary consultancy and catering outfit, Diana Yen regularly works with the magazines Kinfolk and Cherry Bombe, has collected her recipes in a handsome cookbook called A Simple Feast: A Year of Stories and Recipes to Savor and Share, and is collaborating soon with the Brooklyn pie shop Four & Twenty Blackbirds. Given her wildly popular Angora bunny, Cleo, we can only hope the result is carrot-flavored.
Squash Soba Noodle Soup
1 cup diced butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 T peeled and grated fresh ginger
1/4 cup mellow yellow miso paste
4 ozs. enoki mushrooms, trimmed
1 bundle (8 ozs.) soba noodles
2 T green onions, finely chopped, to garnish
Red pepper threads or flakes, to garnish
Pea-shoots, to garnish
1. Place the butternut squash and ginger into a large soup pot, cover with 4 cups water, and bring to a boil. Whisk in miso paste. Reduce heat and bring to a simmer, then cook for about 20 minutes, until squash is fork tender. Add mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes. Season with salt to taste.
2. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.
3. Using tongs, divide the noodles evenly among bowls, then ladle in the soup. Serve immediately with green onions, red pepper, and pea-shoots.
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