Eric Akis: Go wild with a grain bowl

Eric Akis

Layering a balanced mix of ingredients in a bowl, whether hot or cold or a mix of both, has become a popular, nutritious and colourful way to create a meal. You could use a recipe to create that bowl, and today, I’ve provided two options. You could also just wing it and come up with your own bowl using ingredients you have on hand, which could include leftovers, and those you buy fresh. If you choose to build your own bowl, here is how I do it.

Start with grain: Spoon 1/2 to 3/4 cup or so of cooked grains into a shallow serving bowl, such as couscous, quinoa, wheat berries, freekeh, rice, barley, bulgur or amaranth. The cooked grains could be cold or hot depending on the style of bowl you’re making.

article continues below

Add vegetables: Top the grains with a generous amount of raw and/or cooked (hot or cold) vegetables. The possibilities are many, but could include such things as stir-fried vegetables; roasted vegetables; cut raw vegetables, such as tomatoes, carrots, radishes, daikon, cucumber, green onions, peppers and celery; salad greens; raw or cooked kale or chard; and cooked beets, squash and sweet potatoes. You could also add some pulses in this layer, such as beans, chickpeas, edamame or lentils.

Add a protein: Ingredients in the other layers will contain some protein, but this portion is meant to be the “entrée” of your bowl. As with the vegetables, there are many possibilities, but your options include four or so ounces of cubed, sliced or shredded cooked meat, such as chicken, pork, beef, ham or turkey, shellfish, such as salmon, tuna or prawns, cooked eggs, tofu, tempeh and seitan.

Sauce it up: Once you’ve layered the ingredients in your bowl, drizzle and flavour them with a sauce or dressing. On the cold side, options included salad dressings; salsa; Asian-style sauces, such as ponzu and Sriracha; flavoured mayonnaise and other cold sauces; harissa; or simply good olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar, such as balsamic. Hot options include such things as curry sauce, teriyaki sauce and sweet-and-sour sauce.

Add some toppings: If desired, for added texture, taste, nutrition and/or visual appeal, sprinkle your bowls with such things as seeds, such as hemp, sunflower or pumpkin; nuts; dried fruit, such as coconut flakes, cranberries or blueberries; grated or crumbled cheese; fresh herb sprigs or leaves; and croutons.

Asian-style Salmon Bowl

Brown rice, stir-fried vegetables, salmon and a teriyaki-flavoured sauce combine in this bowl topped with sesame seeds and green onion.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: about 45 minutes

Makes: Two servings

3/4 cup long grain brown rice

1 1/2 cups water

1/3 cup low sodium teriyaki sauce (I used Kikkoman brand)

3 Tbsp vegetable or chicken stock

2 tsp brown sugar

1 tsp rice vinegar

1 tsp cornstarch

2 (4- to 5-oz./ 113- to 140-gram) salmon fillets

4 tsp vegetable oil (divided)

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 small yellow or red onion, sliced

1/2 medium red bell pepper, cubed

1 small carrot, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed (see Note)

1 1/4 cups shredded green, Napa, or savoy cabbage

1 tsp peeled, finely chopped fresh ginger

1 Tbsp water

1 tsp roasted sesame seeds (see Note)

1 green onion, thinly sliced

Place rice and 1 1/2 cups water in a small pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover rice, reduce heat to its lowest setting, and cook, undisturbed, 35 minutes, or until tender.

While rice cooks, place teriyaki sauce, stock, sugar, vinegar and cornstarch in small pot and whisk to combine. Bring to simmer over medium-heat. Then, remove from the heat, cover and set sauce aside for now.

When rice is almost cooked, set a non-stick grill pan over medium-high heat (see Eric’s options). Brush each piece of salmon with 1 tsp of the oil; season with salt and pepper. Grill the salmon three minutes per side, or until just cooked through.

While the fish cooks, place the remaining oil in a skillet set over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion, bell pepper, carrot, edamame, cabbage and ginger and cook and stir-fry two to three minutes. Add 1 Tbsp water and cook 30 seconds more.

To assemble bowl, bring the sauce back to a simmer. Divide the rice between two shallow serving bowls. Divide and top the rice with stir-fried vegetables. Set a piece of salmon in each bowl. Drizzle the fish with the sauce, sprinkle with green onions and sesame seeds, and serve.

Note: Frozen shelled edamame are sold at most supermarkets. Roasted sesame seeds are sold in bags or bottles at some supermarkets. If you can’t find them, cook regular sesame seeds in a skillet set over medium heat until lightly toasted.

Eric’s options: Instead of grilling the fish, bake it. To do so, after brushing it with the oil, set the fillets in a parchment paper-lined baking pan and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 425 F for 12 to 15 minutes, or until cooked through.

To add some spicy heat to these dinner bowls, serve them with Sriracha or other hot sauce, for drizzling on top the fish, rice and vegetables.


Quinoa Chickpea Bowl With Chicken

This cold Middle Eastern-style bowl is adapted from a recipe in my Great Rotisserie Chicken Cookbook. That recipe uses shredded pieces of rotisserie chicken, but you can use any type of cooked chicken meat here.


Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 15 to 20 minutes

Makes: Two servings


1/3 cup plain thick yogurt

2 Tbsp orange juice

1 Tbsp chopped fresh mint

1 tsp honey

1/4 tsp ground cumin

• salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 to 1 1/2 cups cooked, cold quinoa

1/2 cup canned chickpeas, drained well

1 cup packed baby spinach

6 to 8 cherry tomatoes, each halved

1/2 cup thinly sliced red or sweet onion

1 cup cooked, cooled and shredded cooked chicken

2 Tbsp unsalted, shelled pistachios or chopped walnuts

1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

8 to 10 fresh mint leaves

Make sauce by combining yogurt, juice, mint, honey, cumin, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to drizzle on your bowl.

Divide quinoa between two shallow serving bowls. Divide and arrange the chickpeas, spinach, tomatoes and onion on the quinoa.

Set an equal amount of chicken in each bowl. Drizzle each bowl with the yogurt sauce Sprinkle on the pistachios (or walnuts), feta and mint leaves and enjoy.

Eric’s options: Instead of chicken, use flakes of canned tuna in this bowl. Instead of quinoa, use cooked, cooled bulgur, freekeh or couscous.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

Read Related Topics

© Copyright Times Colonist