By Addie Broyles
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Wraps were all the rage in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Americans took the basic idea behind a burrito and expanded it to include a flatbread wrapped around a salad or a mix of complementary fillings. Those wraps had a heydey until the deconstructed wrap - or bowl - came around. That was fueled, in part, by people following the ketogenic and Atkins diets who didn't want the extra carbs that came with a tortilla or flatbread, but the bowl as a category of meals has had a successful few years, with dedicated food trucks and restaurants as well as a few grocery store products that are a few steps up from a traditional salad.
Bowls can have salad greens, but what distinguishes them from salads is that they don't have to. You can serve a handful of ingredients - usually a protein and veggies - on grains, legumes, noodles or, in the case of the smoothie bowl, pureed fruit or yogurt.
America's Test Kitchen even suggests that broth could be the base of a bowl, a slight deviation from soup where the ingredients are placed in the bowl before serving rather than simmered together as a cohesive unit.
It's all semantics and preference, but no matter what you call this method of putting together a meal, it's a good way to mix-and-match ingredients from your fridge and pantry to put together hearty, one-dish meals.
Author Cara Carin Cifelli uses rice noodles as the base for this spring roll bowl from "Vegan Buddha Bowls: Easy, Healthy Recipes to Feel Great from the Inside Out" by (Page Street Publishing, $21.99) that includes a peanut sauce drizzled on top. That's the other small difference between a bowl and a salad; with bowls, the dressing - excuse me, sauce - is served on top rather than already tossed in. It's not a large distinction, but it will make your bowl more Instagram-worthy, another reason this trend has exploded in the past few years.
Spring Roll Bowl
To say that I like spring rolls would be an understatement. I love spring rolls. But making them at home can sometimes be a little too labor intensive for me. My style of at-home cooking is easy and relatively quick. With this bowl, you get all the excitement, fun, flavor and color of a spring roll, without the fuss of rolling them up in rice paper, unless you like that part, of course. The sweet crunchy vegetables with the delicious fresh herbs totally shine when combined with the tangy peanut sauce. Everything is tied together perfectly with the vermicelli rice noodles and it's made a filling meal with the tofu. You'll likely have this on high rotation!
- Cara Carin Cifelli
For the peanut sauce:
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon garlic powder
For the tofu:
1 (15 1/2-ounce) package extra-firm tofu
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
For the bowls:
8 ounces dried vermicelli rice noodles
1 medium-sized green cabbage, thinly sliced
1 cup loosely packed chopped fresh mint
3/4 cup loosely packed chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup loosely packed chopped fresh cilantro
3 medium-sized carrots, peeled and shredded
2 small radishes, thinly sliced
1 medium-sized red bell pepper, seeded and julienned
1 English cucumber, julienned
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
For the garnish:
Make the sauce: In a small bowl, vigorously whisk together the peanut butter, water, tamari, maple syrup, lime juice and garlic powder until well combined. If the peanut butter is not at room temperature, warm it in the microwave so it's easy to blend.
Make the tofu: Remove the tofu from the packaging and drain the water. Then wrap the tofu block in a clean towel or several paper towels. Press down to remove as much liquid as possible, and then cut into 1-inch cubes. In a large skillet, melt the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the cubed tofu. Let cook for 5 minutes, then toss or flip to another side. Cook for another 5 minutes and then toss or flip once more. Cook for another 3 minutes. Add the tamari and garlic powder and stir well. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Make the noodles: Bring a medium-sized saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the rice noodles and cook according to the package instructions, then drain and run some cold water over them to stop the cooking. Set aside.
Make the bowls: In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, mint, basil and cilantro. Toss to mix well, then divide among 4 serving bowls. Divide the noodles and tofu equally among the bowls and top each bowl with the carrots, radishes, bell pepper, cucumber and jalapeno. Add the sauce on top and garnish with green onion, sriracha, cilantro and crushed peanuts. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
- From "Vegan Buddha Bowls: Easy, Healthy Recipes to Feel Great from the Inside Out" by Cara Carin Cifelli (Page Street Publishing, $21.99)
Addie Broyles writes about food for the Austin American-Statesman in Austin. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter at @broylesa