In the kitchen

Recipes: Three creative meals to make with leftovers

One bowl wonders

By Lucy Herrman
For The Taos News
Posted 4/3/19

Recipes for Asian Bowl, Ranchero Bowl and Mediterranean Bowl.

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In the kitchen

Recipes: Three creative meals to make with leftovers

One bowl wonders

Posted

Spring is traditionally a time to take care of our dwellings. We vacuum and dust, mop floors and wash windows, throw open the curtains and raise up the blinds. We sort through our clothes, our shoes and our hats. We wash the heavy comforters and quilts before putting them away. We head outside to clean up our gardens, prepping the ground for flowers, perennials, vegetables, herbs. We're glad to get busy!

But now that we are busy, who has time to cook? After cleaning or gardening all day, I use mealtimes as an excuse to clean out my refrigerator and pantry as well. By using up those delectable portions of yesterday's dinners and adding some staples, I can put together an economical and delicious combination. With a little creativity, I can present a few dishes that please the eye, indulge the palat, and take very little time to prepare.

I plan ahead by looking for ways to stretch one meal into two. When cooking on the grill, for instance, I'll have my husband barbecue twice as much steak or chicken with the intent of having tasty leftovers. The first night, a salad and perhaps a good baguette will accompany the steak. The second, I use the leftover meat as a base for a completely different meal by adding fresh and colorful vegetables and serving the whole thing in a bowl. A meal in a bowl is a different kind of comfort food, conveniently satisfying both the appetite and the eye.

Dinner bowls are very trendy today. You see them offered at many restaurants. Part of the idea behind a bowl is to showcase each distinctive ingredient rather than cooking them all together. Healthy and fresh vegetables are cooked individually and arranged artistically. Usually a portion of grilled or sautéed protein, such as meat, fish or tofu, is gracefully laid across the top or tucked to the side. The result is an appealing palette of color and flavor -- and it's good for you, too! But at home, you can easily prepare the same thing at a fraction of the cost, tailoring the bowl to what you have around your own kitchen. And just because it's leftovers, doesn't mean it has to be boring. Composing the food may take an extra minute, but it will feel, look and taste special.

As mentioned before, leftover steak is one of my favorites. You can definitely just slice it up and eat it cold with a salad, which is quick but basically a repeat of the night before. I recommend slicing the steak and searing in a skillet to reheat. Arrange in a bowl with separately sautéed onions, pineapple and zucchini. That steak is then reinvented as an Asian-themed second act.

If you have some savory chicken left from the night before, try this delicious tabbouleh bowl. I like to make mine with protein-packed quinoa instead of bulgur because it cooks quickly and tastes great. I combine it with plenty of chopped parsley, tomatoes, scallions, feta, olives and lemon juice -- a tangy delightful blend of flavors. As for the chicken - slice and skewer. Reheat on a grill or serve it cold. The chicken rounds out the elements making a classic Mediterranean bowl.

When you have a taste for New Mexican flavors, try this updated huevos rancheros. I like to make it a little more special, so I start with polenta instead of corn tortillas. Often seen at restaurants but seldom at home, polenta is actually an easy choice. You can buy tubes of precooked polenta in the Italian section of the supermarket. Just slice, melt some butter and fry until crispy. The rest of the elements in the bowl are readily found in most of our homes: canned black beans, corn, homemade pico de gallo, cilantro. And for protein, a perfectly fried egg. Exquisite to look at and heavenly to eat.

I hope you find the freshness and attractiveness of these three all-in-ones appealing. Most bowls are uncomplicated and take only 30 minutes or so to prepare, so give them a try. If you're repurposing some choice leftovers, your task will be even easier.

Remember that you can substitute your own available ingredients. Add cooked chorizo or bacon to the Ranchero Bowl. Grate some fresh ginger over the Asian Bowl and throw in last night's steamed kale or sautéed mushrooms. Combine the Mediterranean Bowl with your preferred variety of sprouts or freshly picked early snap peas. No doubt you will be inspired to create your own unique versions incorporating personal preferences. You really can't go wrong.

So, as you look around your house and garden with the satisfaction of knowing you've put your life back in order, reward yourself with an enticing zesty bowl. Just enjoy! You've earned it. 

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ASIAN BOWL

FOR EACH BOWL (Serves 1)

1/4 cup sliced sweet onions

1/2 medium zucchini, sliced

4 oz. leftover grilled flank or sirloin steak, cut into thin slices

1/4 cup pineapple chunks

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons dry sherry or white wine

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce

1/2 cup hot cooked brown rice

1/4 cup shredded carrots

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

2-3 slices fresh jalapeño

Place the rice to the side of a medium bowl.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and sauté over medium high heat until softened and slightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and arrange against the side of the bowl. Add the zucchini to the skillet and cook for a minute, until softened and browned. Remove to the bowl and arrange to the side.

Add remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet, swirling to heat. Add the steak, and sauté until glistening. Remove to the third side of the bowl. Add the pineapple to the skillet. Cook the pineapple until nicely browned, a couple of minutes. Remove to the fourth side of the bowl.

Pour the sherry, the soy sauce and the hoisin sauce into the skillet, and reduce heat. Deglaze the pan well, adding a tablespoon of water if necessary. Pour this sauce over the bowl.

Garnish with shredded carrots, cilantro and fresh jalapeño slices. 

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MEDITERRANEAN BOWL

FOR EACH BOWL (Serves 1)

8 slices of cucumber

4 cherry tomatoes, halved

4 pitted Kalamata olives, halved

3 tablespoons diced feta cheese

1/4 fresh avocado, sliced

1 scallion, sliced

Leftover sliced cooked chicken, on two skewers

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup cooked quinoa

1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

Toss the cooked quinoa with the parsley. Place in a bowl.

Decoratively arrange the cucumber, tomatoes, olives, cheese and avocado over the quinoa. Sprinkle with the scallion. Place the skewered chicken to the side of the bowl. (To serve the chicken hot, simply grill for a minute or two.)

Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil and vinegar. Drizzle over the bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Serve room temperature.

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RANCHERO BOWL

FOR EACH BOWL (Serves 1)

2 slices leftover cooked polenta* (see Note)

2 tablespoons butter, divided

1/4 cup cooked black beans

1/4 cup fresh or frozen corn

1 large egg

1/4 cup diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 scallion, sliced

2-3 slices jalapeño

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Mix together the tomatoes, the cilantro and the lime juice. Set aside.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet. Cook the polenta slices over medium heat until lightly browned on both sides. Remove and place in a bowl. Add the black beans to the skillet and sauté until heated. Place in the bowl with the polenta. Add the corn to the skillet and cook until heated. Add to the bowl. Add the tomato mixture to the side of the bowl.

Melt the remaining butter in the skillet. Crack the egg and carefully slide it into the melted butter. Reduce heat to low. Cook on one side, and carefully use a spatula to flip to the other side without breaking the yolk. Flip again, and carefully arrange in the bowl.

Garnish with the scallion and the jalapeño slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

*Note: You can buy precooked polenta. It is conveniently available in tubes in the Italian section of the supermarket.

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