Eric Akis: Have your burrito in a bowl

This dish has all of the ingredients from a traditional Mexican meal, but without the tortilla

Eric Akis

On some local restaurant menus, and even in some Greater Victoria grocery stores serving made-to-order meals, such as Whole Foods, I’ve been noticing burrito bowls on offer. They feature items you might wrap into or serve with a burrito, but instead of tightly sealing them inside a tortilla, they’re served nicely arranged in a bowl.

I like the idea, because items you put in a burrito can often be bright, colourful and visually appealing, but lose some of that lustre when crammed inside a tortilla. When presented in a bowl, everything is on display.

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Another reason some like burrito bowls is because, without the flour tortilla, it will reduce their caloric and/or gluten intake.

If you, like me, are not one of those people, you can certainly serve the bowl with warm tortillas or tortilla chips to dip into the bowl.

If you want to make a burrito bowl at home, I’ve created recipes for one. One is for the bowl itself, the others are for making the rice and sauces you’ll also put into it. Items for the bowl, such as veggie and bean topping and the rice, could be made in advance and reheated.

Feel free to adjust things more to your liking. For example, if you want to use plain brown rice, rather than my Mexican-style rice, or don’t wish to make salsa and want to use store-bought, go for it.

Veggie Bean Burrito Bowl

This recipe sees items you might wrap into or serve with a burrito beautifully arranged in a bowl. It will make a tasty and filling supper.

Preparation time: 60 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Makes: Four servings

For the veggie bean topping

1 (275 to 300 gram) yam, peeled and diced (cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch cubes)

1 medium poblano pepper, halved lengthwise, seeded and diced (see Note 1)

1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed and patted dry

1 (14 oz./398 mL) can black beans, drained, rinsed, and drained again

3 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp orange juice

1 Tbsp lime juice

1 tsp hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp garlic powder

• salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place yam, poblano pepper, corn, beans, oil, juices, hot pepper sauce, cumin, oregano, paprika and garlic powder in a large bowl and toss to combine. Spread this mixture out into a single layer on the baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Roast, stirring once or twice, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until yams are tender. Using this topping as noted below.

For the bowls

• Mexican-style Brown Rice (see recipe below)

• Avocado crema (see recipe below)

• Roasted cherry tomato salsa (see recipe below)

• grated Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese, to taste

• cilantro sprigs, to taste

• microgreens or shredded lettuce, to taste (see Note 2)

• sliced fresh or canned jalapeños, to taste (optional)

• lime wedges and hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco, to taste

• tortillas chips, to taste (optional)

Spoon 3/4 cup or so of Mexican-style brown rice in each of four large, shallow bowls. Mound a generous amount of veggie bean mixture on top of the rice on one side of each bowl. On the other side of each bowl, put generous dollops of avocado crema and roasted cherry tomato salsa. Now set some grated cheese, cilantro sprigs, microgreens (or shredded lettuce) and sliced jalapenos, if using, in each bowl. Serve each bowl with lime wedges and hot pepper sauce, for squeezing and sprinkling on the contents of each bowl. And, if desired, also serve each bowl with some tortilla chips, for scooping up items in it.

Note 1: Dark green poblano peppers are available at most supermarkets. They have a mildly spicy, richer flavour than green bell peppers, although the latter could be used in this recipe if you can’t find a poblano pepper.

Note 2: Microgreens are the small shoots of vegetables picked just after the first leaves have developed. You’ll find them for sale, in small tubs, at some Greater Victoria food stores, such as the Root Cellar and Peppers Foods.

Mexican-style Brown Rice

Use this nutty tasting, nicely spiced, brown rice mixture as the base for your burrito bowls.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 40 to 45 minutes

Makes: Four servings

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/3 cup finely chopped onion

1 1/4 cups long grain brown rice

1 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp smoked paprika

1 1/3 cups low sodium vegetable or chicken stock

1/2 cup tomato sauce or vegetable cocktail, such as V-8

1/2 tsp salt

Pour the oil in a medium-sized pot and set over medium heat. Add the onion and cook two to three minutes, until softened. Add the rice, cumin, garlic powder and paprika and cook and stir two minutes more. Pour in the stock, tomato sauce (or vegetable cocktail), and salt, increase the heat to high, and bring to a rapid boil. Cover the rice, reduce the heat to its lowest setting, and cook, undisturbed, for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Fluff rice with a fork and serve.

Avocado Crema

Here’s a tangy, creamy, smooth, avocado-rich, sour cream mixture to dollop on your burrito bowls.

Preparation time: five minutes

Cooking time: none

Makes: about one cup

1 large ripe avocado, halved lengthwise and pitted

1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp sour cream

1 Tbsp lime juice

1/2 tsp ground cumin

• salt to taste

With a soup spoon, scoop the flesh out of each half avocado and place in a food processor or in the cup that came with your immersion (hand) blender. Add the sour cream, lime juice and cumin and pulse until a smooth mixture is created. Taste and season this avocado crema with salt. Transfer to a bowl, tightly wrap cover and refrigerate until needed for the burrito bowls. Avocado crema can be made a few hours in advance.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Salsa

Roasting the tomatoes and other ingredients used in this recipe concentrates their taste, creating a salsa with a rich and interesting flavour.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 22 minutes

Makes: one and half cups

1 pint (about 20 to 24) cherry tomatoes (I used grape tomatoes)

1/4 cup sliced, drained canned or fresh jalapeño peppers

1/2 small to medium onion, diced

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp ancho chili powder (see Note)

1/4 tsp ground cumin

2 Tbsp olive oil

• salt to taste

2 to 3 tsp lime juice

3 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 450 F. Place the tomatoes, jalapeño pepper, onion, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin and olive oil in 10-inch cast iron or other ovenproof skillet. Toss to coat the tomatoes with the oil; season with salt. Roast tomatoes until they start to split, about 20 to 22 minutes.

Place the ingredients in the skillet in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Transfer mixture to a bowl, mix in the lime juice and then cool to room temperature.

When cool, mix in the cilantro. Taste the salsa and season with more salt, if needed. Cover and refrigerate salsa until needed. Will keep a few days in the refrigerator.

Note: Ancho chili powder is made from dried, ground ancho chilies. It is sold in the bottled herb and spice aisle of most supermarkets.

If you can’t find it or don’t wish to use it, replace it with regular chili powder.

Eric’s options: For spicier salsa, simply increase the amount of jalapeño pepper used.

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

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