Great Bowls of Food Coobook: Black Rice, Tofu, and Greens Bowl with Kimchi and Spicy Mayo

May 26, 2016

Like just about everyone else, we're simply mad about bowl food. Be it a smoothie bowl for breakfast, a homemade take-and-go lunch, or a hearty dinner these healthy bowls are fun, delicious and satiate our appetite. In the recently published cookbook Great Bowls of Food: Grain Bowls, Buddha Bowls, Broth Bowls and More, author Robin Asbell covers literally every type of bowl - from fruity breakfast bowls, to quick and easy lunch bowls, to warm and soothing broth bowls, dessert bowls - even platter meals for make-your-own-bowl parties.

Each bowl starts with the same formula: a hearty base (grains, beans, noodles, zucchini "zoodles"), piled high with vegetables (fresh and/or pickled or fermented, like kimchi), a bit of protein (tofu or your favorite meat or fish), then topped off with a flavorful sauce like a spicy wasabi cream, a zesty tzatziki (yogurt, garlic and cucumber), or a sweet miso dressing.

"The bowl meal is the secret to eating healthier, more satisfying meals every day," says Asbell. "It's perfect for packing lunch - no more wilted salads! - and the perfect way to make a real meal out of this-and-that from the fridge." Best of all, she notes, it's super easy to customize, so even the pickiest of eaters in the family can build their own bowl to suit their needs. It's also a great way to get kids involved in meal making. Our 5-year-old daughter loves to create her own bowls!

Recipes in the book include sweet and savory breakfast bowls, such as a Thai-Style Rice Bowl with Sweet Coconut Sauce and Mango and Multigrain Polenta with Pesto Eggs and Kale. In the section on condiments, I especially love the recipes for Coconut "Bacon" and the Black Garlic Ginger Sauce.  Lunch bowls feature scrumptious dishes like an Easier Bibimbap with Brown Rice, Tofu or Eggs, Sautéed Shiitakes, Kimchi, and Spiced Nori (seaweed sheets) and an everyone-in-the-family-will-love Pizza Bowl with Soft Polenta, Spinach and Mozzarella.

Dinner bowls range from light to hearty with dishes such as Sesame Noodles with Thai Green Curry Tofu, Red Cabbage, and Snap Peas to a Southern-style Grits with Spicy Collards, Shrimp, Roasted Red Peppers, and Aioli Drizzle. The chapter on Broth Bowls contains a Cure a Cold Brothy Bowl - perfect for those pesky viruses, and a simply delish Chipotle Lime Brothy Bowl with Chicken over Quinoa. Your guests will love the Black Rice Báhn Mì Bowl with Quick Pickled Veggies and Five-Spiced Seitan or Chicken from the Big Party Platter Bowls chapter. And lastly, who could resist a sweet bowl of Honey-Drizzled Farro with Strawberries, Cocoa-Chèvre, and Walnuts or the Cocoa Brown Rice Bowl with Berries and Peaches, Topped with Streusel Crunch?

This is one book you'll keep going back to again and again!

Black Rice, Tofu, and Greens Bowl with Kimchi and Spicy Mayo
Courtesy of Robin Asbell, Great Bowls of Food: Grain Bowls, Buddha Bowls, Broth Bowls and More

"Keep it simple and get your fermented cabbage in for the day, boosting your good bacteria. This bowl is so macrobiotic and plant-based that it gives you instant karma points. Pack it and take to work, but wait to add the nori ’til the last minute. Bonus points for sprinkling this bowl with Chia-Hemp Gomashio." ~ Robin Aspell

Note: Gomashio is a simple and flavorful Japanese garnish made from sesame seeds (goma) and salt (shio). Asbell kicks this basic seasoning up a notch by adding in chia and hemp seeds. Her recipe below makes about 10 tablespoons (or 5 servings), so you'll have a little bit leftover. I recommend adding it to a tamari-based vinaigrette to use in another bowl.

Yield: 4 servings
1 (14-ounce) package firm tofu
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce, plus extra to pass
2 tablespoons honey
4 cups cooked black rice
3 tablespoons rice vinegar, divided
1 teaspoon sugar
½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons gochujang (Korean hot sauce)
1 bunch kale, shredded
1 cup kimchi, drained
4 large radishes, thinly sliced
For the Chia-Hemp Gomashio:
1/4 cup sesame seeds
2 tablespoons chia seeds
2 tablespoons hemp seeds
1 tablespoon coarse salt

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Drain the tofu, wrap in a towel, and press gently to remove excess water. Slice the pressed tofu across the short side to make 8 slices. Spread the canola oil on a sheet pan and place the tofu on the pan. Stir the tamari and the honey in a cup, then spread the tamari mixture evenly on the tofu pieces. Bake for 20 minutes, then use a spatula to turn the slices and bake for 
20 minutes longer. Let cool.

Warm the black rice. Mix 1 tablespoon of the rice vinegar and sugar and fold it gently into the rice.

Stir the mayonnaise, remaining rice vinegar, and gochujang in a cup.

To serve, divide the rice between the bowls, then arrange the baked tofu, kale, kimchi, and radishes on top. Drizzle ¼ of the mayo dressing on top of each and sprinkle each bowl with a bit of gomashio (instructions below). Serve with tamari on the side.

To make the gomashio:
In a small skillet over medium-high heat, swirl the sesame seeds to toast. In a couple of minutes they will become fragrant and oily and golden brown. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

Place the sesame seeds in a spice grinder or a clean coffee grinder and pulse to grind finely. Add the chia, hemp, and salt and pulse to mix and barely crack the hemp.

Use immediately or transfer to a jar and refrigerate for up to 2 months.