I saw a commercial the other night advertising a fast food dinner bundle that families could buy for under $20, and this particular establishment offered a punch card so the more quick dinners you buy for your family the more rewards you earn. Something about the idea really gave me pause. Now don't get me wrong: there are many hectic nights around here when we pick up take-out —and we don't even have kids. But I also know that there are other ways to get a quick meal on the table rather than relying solely on those easy dinner punch cards. For us lately, these meals come in the form of the Dinner Bowl.
→ Get the recipe pictured above: Soba Bowls with Tea-Poached Salmon at Turntable Kitchen
What is a Dinner Bowl? In our house, they take the idea of a big, robust salad one step further and include some sort of protein and a base of either grains, soba noodles, couscous or leftover pasta. They often incorporate seasonal vegetables and something crunchy like toasted nuts or seeds. Perhaps even a little cheese or a mild dressing or sauce to liven things up.
I find that these quicker meals allow me to break out of the box more, and lose the focus on what 'works' together — instead focusing more on what sounds good. Cabbage, tofu and peanut sauce? Yes! Spinach, barley and bacon? Of course!
Dinner Bowls are great for many reasons. First, they can be a great 'clean out the fridge' strategy. Second: fewer dishes! Last, Dinner Bowls can be as customizable as you'd like for them to be, so if you're into accommodating the pickier eaters in your household, this is an easy occasion for everyone to find something they'll like.
My Guide to the Deluxe Dinner Bowl
- Choose Your Base: The best way to approach a Dinner Bowl is to think about what leftovers you have on hand. I rarely cook something up especially for one. If you have leftover rice, noodles, couscous or quinoa a Dinner Bowl is easily within your reach.
- Find Some Protein: Certain people's bodies crave protein more than others; I happen to be one of those people. So I love to top my Dinner Bowls with a little smoked salmon, leftover chicken, baked tofu, sliced hardboiled egg or even a bit of tuna.
- Add Some Color: Cleaning out the crisper is gratifying, but so too is snatching up something pretty at the farmers market and chopping it up for your next Dinner Bowl. When I was getting a weekly CSA box, the produce I wasn't quite sure what to do with almost always ended up in a haphazard Dinner Bowl at some point during the week.
- Flavor, Please! It's great to use up your leftover grains and vegetables but at the end of the day, if your Dinner Bowl doesn't taste delicious you're not going to want to repeat the experience. Depending on the inclusions, perhaps you'll try a robust peanut sauce or an herbed yogurt dip. Maybe a good hit of za'atar or harissa seems appropriate, or leave it to a simple lemon vinaigrette. Scavenge the condiments that get pushed to the back of the refrigerator and repurpose them into quick sauces (mix a bit of yogurt with Sriracha and you're set).
- A Little Crunch Goes a Long Way: I'm a big fan of different tastes and textures in my Dinner Bowls, so I love scattering some toasted nuts or seeds on top. Pepitas and sesame seeds are in heavy rotation as are walnuts or even flax seeds depending on what we're including on that particular day.
I'd love to hear about any Dinner Bowls you've been throwing together lately that you're excited about!