I’ve been eating the majority of my meals out of shallow bowls for quite some time now, even though everyone thinks I’m weird for it. I also eat almost everything with chopsticks (even weirder, I know), but in my opinion bowls accommodate chopsticks more than a plate. Besides their practical uses, I like bowls for other reasons as well, and my preference kind of stuck.
So imagine my amusement when “bowls” became a thing and started popping up on all kinds of menus. Finally, I thought. Now people understand what the big deal is!
Seriously, there’s something special about a meal in a bowl. First, I eat with my eyes, and even the least artistic among us can arrange small piles of colorful foods to look appealing. Bowls also provide the advantage of added security—the deeper vessel keeps the various components contained, and there’s no need to worry about keeping the rim of the plate clean and tidy. Though an artfully designed meal in a bowl is essentially “deconstructed,” it’s this very trait that makes them look so assembled and polished.
Bowls are also an ideal way to allow for each diner’s individual preferences and predilections, and they’re great for serving a slew of finicky eaters. I love diverse flavor combinations, and I’m not particularly picky when it comes to veggies, so I load my bowls up with a little of everything. My family members, on the other hand, are much pickier and prefer more limited options. A beautiful bowl provides unique bites of different flavor combinations, and it can accommodate those who prefer to eat each component separately just as well as it does those who want to mix it all together and go at it!
There are few guidelines to the art of arranging a bowl, but nothing is set in stone. My bowls never look exactly the same from one to the next, but I do employ a few standard rules. I like a combination of raw and cooked vegetables, in various colors and textures, and I always adorn my bowls with at least one sauce or dressing to provide both flavor and moisture. Other than that, it’s fair game.
Mexican-inspired bowls are a particular favorite in our house, and I can easily adjust the components for everyone in the family. This recipe features sautéed peppers and onions, a tribute to fajitas, and a big dollop of guacamole for added moisture and flavor, as well as healthy fat. A drizzle of creamy chipotle dressing adds a spicy, smoky kick. Serve alone for a salad, or serve over rice to make it more of a meal. I’ve also included some other yummy suggestions below to make your bowl as unique as you.
Grilled Fajita Bowls with Chipotle Cream and Guacamole
Makes 4 generous servings
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 20–30 minutes (not including cook time for rice, if using)
For the guacamole:
2 ripe avocados, mashed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lime, juiced
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the creamy chipotle dressing:
3 tablespoons mayonnaise (alternately, use chipotle mayo)
⅓ cup sour cream
1–3 teaspoons minced chipotle peppers in adobo (adjust to personal preference)
1 teaspoon lime juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the grilled fajitas:
1½ teaspoons cumin
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon chili powder
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste (use more for more kick, if desired)
1 red onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
24 oz. steak of choice (rib-eye, sirloin, flank, strip loin, and skirt are all good choices)
2 chicken breasts, butterflied to even thickness
For the garnish:
1 head romaine lettuce, shredded
2 tomatoes, sliced
4–6 oz. cheese, shredded
Other serving options:
Rice or quinoa
Roasted sweet potatoes
Steamed or roasted veggies
Any salsas or sauces of your choice (pico de gallo, salsa roja, queso, or tropical fruit salsa would all be yummy)
Toasted pumpkin seeds
- Prepare guacamole: Mash avocado with garlic and lime juice. Add salt and pepper. Cover with a layer of plastic wrap placed directly on top (to reduce browning while you prepare the rest of the meal).
- Prepare chipotle dressing: Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Adjust heat level, lime juice, and salt to your liking. Set aside in fridge.
- Prepare spice mixture: Combine cumin, oregano, chili powder, and optional crushed red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Prepare fajita veggies: Heat olive oil. Add onions to pan and sauté for 5 minutes. Add garlic and peppers and sauté for 2 minutes. Sprinkle with about half the spice mixture and season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender, adding a little water if the mixture seems dry. Keep on low while you grill the meat.
- Prepare protein: Preheat the grill. Rub steak and chicken with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with the other half of the spice mixture. Grill chicken until cooked through, about 7–8 minutes, and grill steak to your liking. Transfer meats to a platter and let rest for 5 minutes.
- Arrange bowls: Slice meats into bite-sized pieces. Arrange meats, shredded cheese, cooked and raw veggies, and any other garnishes or additions in the bowl. Drizzle liberally with the chipotle dressing and top with a big dollop of guacamole. Dive in!
Image from Briana Goodall.