Asian Style Bowls

This recipe first appeared on the CAFE newsletter in April 2020

Recipe and words by Amanda Callahan, edited by Ellie Sharp

The “bowl” has become one of the easiest, tastiest and most versatile ways to get a satisfying dinner on the table. You can customize a bowl menu to your family’s taste — Asian, Mexican, Mediterranean — and the combinations within each profile are endless. I try to prepare everything in one pan for easy cleanup. And, if you plan ahead and chop ingredients ahead of time, this meal is usually ready in about 30 minutes. Provided here is my Here’s a super-simple take on an Asian-style bowl. 

First, start with a protein base. I like to use ground pork (pictured), but any ground meat will work well. Chicken and turkey are lovely! If you don’t have ground meat, use finely chopped or sliced chicken breast. I haven’t tried meat substitutes like crumbled soy, “scrambled” tofu or Beyond beef products, but I imagine even they would soak up the delicious Asian flavored sauce, too.

Asian greens are superb AND in season right now — perfect for this dish! Varieties like mizuna, and bok choy are ideal, but feel free to experiment with what you like or want to try. Kale is a good option as is a 50/50 mix of spinach and dandelion greens. Endive, mustard and arugula will all be delicious, too. If you prefer to stick with an old favorite, you can use classic cabbage.

A final note on seasonings: this is a great chance to use that bottle of Asian sauce or seasoning you bought for that one recipe that one time and is now hiding in the back of the fridge or pantry. Mirin, hoisin, and miso would all be exquisite. This recipe is just a template for basic Asian flavors using standard pantry ingredients. But go wild and experiment with what you’ve got! I have a bottle of pickle wine (!?!?). It definitely makes it into my Asian bowls.

I just can’t get enough of the amazing local mushrooms currently available and those are the next essential ingredient in my bowls. Any mushroom will do! Don’t like mushrooms? You can use a umami, flavor packed substitution such as frozen shelled edamame or cook broccoli, green beans, or asparagus over high heat with soy sauce until crisped on the edges. In the summertime, eggplant is my favorite to include. 

Ingredients:

  • 3-6 TB high heat tolerant oil, divided (examples: coconut, avocado, canola)
  • 1 small onion, minced (scallions are a great substitute but don’t need to cook as long!)
  • 1 rounded TB grated ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced, divided
  • 1 lb ground meat or meat substitute
  • 3 TB good quality soy sauce or tamari* see note at the bottom
  • 1 tspn. Asian chili paste or sriracha (more if you like it spicy!)
  • 2 TB rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tspn. Honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tspn. sesame oil
  • 12 oz. oyster or shiitake mushrooms, sliced (or any fresh mushrooms you like)
  • 2 TB soy sauce
  • Splash of rice wine vinegar
  • 1 large bunch of greens (such as bok choy, pictured)
  • Salt and pepper
  • For serving: rice or cauliflower rice, ½ cup kimchi, sriracha, sesame seeds, scallions

Directions:

  1. Over medium high heat, melt 1TB oil and add the onion and ginger. Saute for about two minutes. Add the meat. Break up the meat and disperse among onions. When the meat is almost done and there’s a bit of pink left, add ⅔ of your minced garlic. Incorporate well. 
  2. Turn heat down to low and add soy, chili paste, vinegar and maple syrup. Combine well and cook for a few minutes. Add the sesame oil and turn off the heat. Dump meat mixture into a separate bowl and keep warm. 
  3. Using the same pan, heat 2 TB oil over medium heat. Add sliced mushrooms. Saute until mushrooms release their juices. The mushrooms will soak up all the oil. If needed, and the pan gets too dry and mushrooms start to burn, you can add more oil. After about six to eight minutes, the mushrooms should start to look juicy. Add the soy sauce, vinegar and reserved ⅓ minced garlic. Cook for another minute or two. Taste for seasoning (I needed to add a pinch of salt and pepper). Move mushrooms to a small bowl and keep warm.
  4. Heat another 1 TB oil in a pan over medium high heat and add greens. Cook over high heat to slightly wilt and brown around the edges. Lightly salt and pepper. Add mushrooms back in and heat back up. Turn heat off. Taste for seasonings again and adjust to taste. 
  5. To serve, divide the rice, meat and veggies into bowls and top with kimchi, extra sriracha and sesame seeds. 

* I use a super high quality mushroom flavored soy sauce that is found in Asian grocery stores. The best local grocery substitute will be tamari. However, if all you have is soy sauce, you may find you need to use more with a bit more sweetener, too. You might also find that your meat won’t be dark and sticky like mine pictured. If you like that texture/flavor profile, you might find that adding some hoisin sauce will do that trick as well! 

A formula recipe: Skillet gratin

Edited by: Ellie Sharp, first published in the CAFE newsletter

This time of year I crave hearty, deeply satisfying dishes like shepherd’s pie and baked au gratins. I turn to these and others time and time again, with just one regret: the inevitable stockpile of pots and pans that such recipes require when each component is cooked separately and then combined into a final baking vessel. With snow in the forecast this past week (it eluded us this time – boo!) I was hankering for a hearty, hot soup alternative that wouldn’t put my kitchen cleaning into overdrive. The result was combining the likes of a shepherd’s pie with an au gratin into a single skillet supper.

This meal is exceptionally adaptable and can be tailored to flavor preferences as well as meat or meat-free diets. Once a filling is chosen, it is topped with a starchy vegetable and cheese “crust”. With this basic formula as your guide, the resulting outcomes are truly limitless. Play around with what’s in season, try combining new-to-you ingredients with a familiar base, or switch up seasonings for Tex-Mex, Greek, Asian or Italian flair.

For my first creation, pictured here, I used bacon, leek, shiitake, and cabbage with a rutabaga topping: a true celebration of CAFE offerings these days!

Skillet Gratin 
The formula:

Protein: 1 lb ground meat, 8 oz chopped bacon, 1.5 cups leftover roast meat, OR 1 can of drained beans/lentils 

Vegetables: You need roughly 6 cups of chopped vegetables. Ideas include mushrooms, cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, etc.

Gratin topping: 1 pound starchy root vegetable such as potatoes, rutabaga, turnip, even beets. Slice chosen vegetables thinly with a mandolin.

Seasonings and Herbs: Start with 3-4 cloves of garlic chopped, freshly chopped herbs, salt and pepper. Nice additions include tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, wine, etc.

Cream and Cheese for Topping: Save the cream from the top of your raw milk or, as pictured here, the top layer of canned coconut milk. Nut milk might work, too, if you can make it thick enough (give it a whirl). You’ll need about ½ cup of the milk choice and ½ cup of preferred cheese.

In addition to the following specific recipe, here are some combination ideas to get you started:

  • Chicken pot pie inspired with chicken, carrots, mushrooms, peas and topped with Yukon gold potatoes.
  • Roast pork from the freezer with Brussels sprouts, mushrooms and topping with some potatoes and goat cheese.
  • Ground beef would do well with spinach or broccoli plus tomato and an addition of tomato paste.
  • Lentils! I can’t wait to try this with lentils and some kale topped with turnips. 

The possibilities are truly limitless or at least as far as your taste buds and imagination can take you!

Bacon, shiitake, leek, cabbage with rutabaga skillet gratin (pictured recipe):

  • 8 ounces bacon, chopped
  • 12 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 leeks washed and sliced into half moons
  • 1 small (or ½ large) cabbage head, quartered, core removed, sliced into ribbons
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 pound rutabaga, sliced thin with a mandolin
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk (not shaken and poured from the cream on top)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. If using pre-cooked meat or beans continue to step 3. Otherwise, heat a 10-inch iron skillet over heat and brown the meat. Remove from the pan, place on a plate and set aside. Drain off all but 1 TB fat. Continue to step 4. 
  3. In a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat, heat fat of choice.
  4. Add mushrooms and sauté until they release liquid, about 5 minutes (if using onions, I’d add them at this point too). 
  5. Add remaining chopped vegetables. Season assertively with salt and pepper. Sauté until they begin to cook and become slightly wilted/limp. Remember you will be cooking this in the oven for a time, so the vegetables don’t need to be entirely cooked, just get the process started, about 5-7 minutes.
  6. Add your herbs, garlic, and any other seasoning of choice at this point. 
  7. Add the cooked meat or protein of choice into the skillet and fold everything together until warmed and combined thoroughly. Turn off the heat. 
  8. Starting with your ragged looking slices (saving the pretty ones for the end) of gratin topping choice, began layering these over the mixture. Continue layering until all the slices have been used. Season with salt and pepper. 
  9. Slowly pour cream over the skillet, taking care to wet each slice and top with cheese, if using.
  10. Cover your skillet with aluminum foil. Bake covered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
  11. Test your potatoes/topping for doneness by sticking a knife through them. If there is any resistance, continue baking another 5-10 minutes.
  12. Uncover the dish and bake another 5-10 minutes until the top has browned in spots.
  13. Let it cool for about 10 minutes while you throw together a salad. Slice and serve!