There’s something about a bowl of food that feels more sustaining, more comforting, more sincere than a flat ol’ plate of food.
It’s ample, piled, and without pretensions- layering what might be the last of the rice in the pantry with what likely are almost-forgotten vegetables in the refrigerator into something special, someway somehow. Sure, we’ll pick up some fresh ground beef at the grocery, or a knob of fresh ginger if we’re out… but the root of these bowl-of-food meals is that we’re using what we have while we have it, making a whole lotta something from what we might have thought was not much at all.
For the next few months I’ll be offering Bowl of Food dinner ideas. The hope is that we’ll build our pantry with staples that can turn forgotten fridge items into dinner.
What’s in your fridge? It might just be dinner, undone.
Inspired in concept by one of my favorite New Orleans restaurants The Sneaky Pickle.
Here’s what’s in this Bowl of Food:
• Ground beef we’ll cook to browned and crispy with fresh garlic and ginger and chilis. If you something like ground turkey or ground chicken or firm tofu I would encourage you do go for it!
• Rice. I used jasmine rice cooked to fluffy in salted water. Maybe you’ve got brown rice, sushi rice, leftover Chinese take-out rice, or that frozen rice that comes in plastic packs at Trader Joe’s. Maybe even quinoa, or farro! Take whatcha got and go!
• Base sauce flavors are: soy sauce, fish sauce, a good pinch of salt, and lime juice. Sriracha for extra credit. We’re hitting salty, sweet, bright, and umami flavors all in once sauce.
• Fresh vegetables: a solid combination of what you have wilting in your refrigerator + fresh radishes you bought from the store + some sprouts maybe + fresh basil and garlic and ginger definitely.
Pantry staples to build our cupboards for now and for the future:
Fish Sauce (trust)
Chicken stock (this is my favorite!)
In a saucepan we’ll heat vegetable oil and fry fresh garlic, fresh ginger, and spicy red chili peppers. Ground beef is added and broken up into tiny bite-size bits as it cooks.
We can’t some super crispy bits so, blast the heat a bit, drain some of the fat, stir often, and cook until some of the meat has caramelized to crunchy.
To the crunchy, cooked beef add a good splash of chicken or vegetable broth and torn fresh basil.
The broth will help pick up any browned bits of flavor that have cooked to the bottom of the pan.
Fresh vegetables are sliced, diced, and julienned into matchsticks.
Sauce made: soy sauce + fish sauce + fresh lime juice + sugar for balance.
Piled in a bowl we’ll layer warm rice, spicy beef, soy sauce mixture and our sliced vegetables.
That’s it! That’s our bowl of food. A combination of warm and spicy, starchy and fresh, salty and bright. It’s dinner and it’s dang good and we’re building our pantries for now and for our future dinner-selves. Feeling good. Feeling great.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 6 garlic cloves, smashed and coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 2 red chiles, seeded and very thinly sliced
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 small handfuls fresh basil leaves (about 10 leaves), divided
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 carrot, peeled and julienned
- 5 or so radishes, thinly sliced
- half a cucumber, thinly sliced
- 2 handfuls of fresh sprouts or lettuce greens
- 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
- 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- dash of sriracha sauce
- Warm Jasmine rice and lime wedges (for serving)
- In a medium saute pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger, and chili slices and cook, stirring until crisping and fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Add the ground beef and cook, breaking up the beef with the back of a spoon as it cooks. As the beef cooks, the fat will begin to cook out of the meat. Drain off a majority of the fat. Increase heat to medium-high and continue to cook the beef until it begins to crisp, about 8 minutes. Stir frequently.
- Add the chicken stock to the pan and stir any browned bits from the bottom of the pan as the stock cooks off and evaporates. Add about 5 torn basil leaves and stir into the beef. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
- Slice and dice the fresh vegetables. Set aside.
- In a small bowl whisk together lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, and sriracha. Stir until sugar dissolves.
- To assemble, spoon rice into bowls, Top with beef, fresh vegetables, remaining fresh basil leaves, and soy sauce mixture. Enjoy warm with extra fresh lime and hot sauce.
- Serving Size: 4
photographs with Jon Melendez