I must admit that the food bowl trend baffled me at first. The bowls used to “build your own meals” aren’t delicate porcelain bowls adorned with floral designs or made with colorful pressed glass, and the food inside is neither fancy nor combinations of the unusual. Instead, the bowls in question can be simple, everyday white bowls that are more commonly associated with eating hurried breakfast cereals. As I skeptically transferred my warmed-up leftovers (Indian food and some broiled vegetables) from a plate to a bowl, I realized that I was missing the point.
A simple white bowl plays up the color of food; The brown color of leftover chickpeas and green broiled Brussels’ sprouts boldly stood out amongst more colorful red cabbage and charred eggplant. Carbohydrates, such as my white jasmine rice or transparent mung noodles, pop amongst the riot of purples and oranges in a bowl filled with roasted vegetables. A white plate can provide the same trick, but the array of colors tightly juxtaposed in a bowl somehow tricks the eye into seeing a fuller, more delicious display.
Another reason for the success of this trend is the shape of the container. Wrapping your hands around a bowl forces a stronger connection to the food. Building up a bowl with your choice fixings is like being presented with all of your favorite comfort foods all at once, but with built-in portion control due to the limiting size of the bowl. The flexibility of prepping ahead, by using up leftovers or creating new groupings, and assembling balanced bowls will keep this trend going for a while.
Filling A Bowl:
Add color and nutrients: Fill half the bowl with fresh, steamed or roasted vegetables.
Add heft: Fill a quarter of the bowl with whole grain pasta, quinoa, or even leftover rice from the takeout carton.
Add protein: Fill a quarter with tofu, fish, or spare meatballs.
Add a flourish: Garnish with simple oil and vinegar dressing, curry sauce, or toasted cashews or almonds for a crunch.
My first attempt at making a chickpea curry was a disaster. At the end of the evening, my aunt gently reminded me to pre-soak the beans before cooking them. Ever since that rock-hard-chickpea incident, I’ve resorted to using canned cooked chickpeas, and generating a lot of discarded liquid in the process. Until now. Aquafaba, the residual liquor from cooking chickpeas, works perfectly as an egg substitute – a boon to those with an egg allergy or a vegan with a sweet tooth.
Aquafaba, from the Latin aqua (water) and faba (bean), is a more attractive name to give the liquid from a legume. This viscous amber-colored liquid is rich in starch and protein plant material that is drawn out from the legume during cooking. Aquafaba whisks into a binding agent for use in cakes or froths up as foam in drinks. Its neutral flavor doesn’t compete with other ingredients when substituted for eggs in mayonnaise or meringue. Goose Wohlt, an American software engineer, is widely recognized as the person responsible for both the name and making the first stable vegan meringue in 2015.
Aquafaba can be made from canned chickpeas. However, using dried chickpeas eliminates the added salt and preservatives found in the canned version.
Dried chickpeas – 2 cups
Salt – 1 tsp
Wash the dried chickpeas with several changes of fresh water.
Drain in a colander.
In a fresh bowl, add the chickpeas, 6 cups of water, and salt. Leave it to soak overnight or for about 13-15 hours.
Pour the contents of the bowl into a cooking pan.
Boil the chickpeas for 1¼ – 1½ hours. Check the chickpeas halfway into cooking time for the frothy scum that rises to the top. Using a spoon and in one continuous motion, scoop out as much of the froth as possible.
Chickpeas are ready when they have no crunch but are firm to the touch.
Strain the chickpeas, reserving both the chickpeas and golden-colored liquid or aquafaba.
One of my new favorite drinks is the Peruvian Pisco Sour – but the cocktail was hard to make for a large holiday party. It would have been a challenge to separate so many eggs and keep the egg whites at an optimal temperature. Substituting aquafaba for egg whites addresses these concerns, and is suitable to serve both vegans and worriers (regarding raw eggs) alike. Cheers!
Pisco – 3 oz
Aquafaba – 2 tbsp
Simple syrup – 2 ½ -3 tbsp (depending on taste)
Lime juice – 4 tbsp
Crushed ice – ¾ – 1 tbsp
Angostura Bitters – 2-3 drops (optional)
Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker.
Add the crushed ice. Shake vigorously.
Pour in thirds (to create as much foam as possible) into a short glass. Serve immediately.
Note: Use the cooked chickpeas to make a simple Italian appetizer with garlic and chili powder, chickpea curry, or process into a smooth hummus.
After printing a successful issue, my first editor in London brought caviar to the office. The team was excited to enjoy this expensive gesture. The black bubbles of cured sturgeon roe glistened from a small glass container, sitting on top of a mound of crushed ice. A delicate mother-of-pearl spoon rested nearby. While everyone savored the refined treat, I seemed to be the only one who didn’t appreciate the caviar’s long aftertaste. However, I changed my mind about caviar this New Year’s Eve.
To ring in the New Year, my neighbor served a delicious appetizer of caviar, crumbled hardboiled egg, and onion on lightly buttered toast. The two additions provided a delicate balance to the texture and salty flavor of caviar, and for the first time, I enjoyed this extravagant food.
A few days later, I saw the holiday episode of The Great American Baking Show that featured champagne “caviar” as a dessert garnish. The “caviar” was easy to make; the golden champagne droplets were teased out from stock items in my pantry such as gelatin, sugar, and oil. I was inspired to create a whimsical twist on the champagne and caviar pairing. I topped the black sturgeon beads and orange salmon roe with the captured champagne “caviar” bubbles, which added a hint of sweetness to this festive and decadent treat.
Scoop out some of the yolk from the hard-boiled egg, and replace with caviar.
Sprinkle the champagne “caviar” on top of the caviar.
Another option: Combine the hard-boiled egg with caviar and serve on toasted bread. Top off with champagne caviar.
Note: This luxurious treat can be made a little more affordable by replacing champagne with sparkling wine and /or using locally-farmed roe. Here’s to a year of celebratory meals that don’t break the bank!