Sometimes it feels like I’m running a fast-casual restaurant out of my home kitchen, with a nightly clientele of just two. What grain would we like for the base of our bowls? What — protein? What vegetable? What dressing, and what crunchy topping(s)?
That’s when things are working the way I’ve planned, and I’ve got all of the above — in multiple choices, sometimes! — waiting in the fridge or freezer for me to defrost (if need be), assemble and warm. And it can be a particularly efficient, even satisfying, way to eat, especially because my partner and I have different dietary preferences. He can have shrimp over cauliflower “rice,” and I can have tofu or beans over barley, but we’ll both get roasted red peppers, say, plus charred zucchini, topped with a homemade vinaigrette or yogurt sauce and nuts.
It’s clearly the way Laura Wright eats as well. In the blogger’s first cookbook, “The First Mess” (Avery, 2017), she writes about just the same type of strategy: “Most nights, dinner is an amalgamation of several parts nestled into a big bowl at my house.”
It might seem strange to be suggesting just such a strategy while also recommending Wright’s recipe for one particular bowl, but consider it inspiration for the types of things you can combine when you get into the right mind-set.
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My favorite part of her recipe for Roasted Chile Lime Tofu Bowls is the dressing/marinade and its spicy-tart punch. You toss extra-firm tofu (patted dry but not pressed) in it quickly, then roast for a bit, add broccoli florets to the baking sheet and roast some more, and then serve both over brown rice with sprouts and sunflower seeds. You chop up basil, toss it in the remaining marinade and spoon that over the bowls before serving.
My only regret: that I wasn’t left with any extra dressing. Next time, I’ll double or triple that part — or perhaps every other element, too, and get my kitchen ready for the next few fast-casual nights.
Roasted Chile Lime Tofu Bowls
Here’s a starting point for the dinnertime bowl strategy: Combine a cooked grain, plant protein, sauce, seasonal vegetables and topping. This variation is based on tofu, roasted with broccoli and a tart, spicy dressing. Adapted from “The First Mess Cookbook: Vibrant Plant-Based Recipes to Eat Well Through the Seasons,” by Laura Wright (Avery, 2017).
One 14-ounce block extra-firm tofu
2 teaspoons freshly grated lime zest plus 2 tablespoons lime juice (from 1 lime), or more juice as needed
2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil, or more as needed
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic (garlic powder)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
About 6 ounces broccoli florets (about (3 cups)
1/4 cup lightly packed chopped fresh basil leaves, plus a few small whole leaves, for garnish
2 cups cooked brown rice, warmed
1/2 cup fresh sunflower sprouts (may substitute another sprout of your choice)
1/4 cup raw, hulled, unsalted sunflower seeds, toasted (see NOTE)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Drain the tofu of its packing liquid and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes.
Whisk together the lime zest and juice, oil, garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Taste, and add more salt, as needed. Gently toss the tofu in the dressing. Transfer the coated tofu cubes to the baking sheet, gently shaking off as much of the marinade as possible back into the bowl.
Roast (middle rack) for 15 minutes, until the tofu is lightly browned on the bottom. Remove from the oven and gently flip the cubes over. Toss the broccoli florets in the dressing/marinade, then arrange them on the same the baking sheet with the tofu. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until all the edges are lightly browned. Taste, and sprinkle with a little salt, as needed.
Whisk the chopped basil into the remaining marinade to form a dressing. If it is too thick, add a little water, more lime juice and/or more oil to thin it out.
Serve the roasted tofu and broccoli hot over bowls of brown rice. Add the sprouts, toasted sunflower seeds and drizzles of the basil-flecked dressing. Garnish with basil leaves if desired.
NOTE: Toast the sunflower seeds in a small skillet over medium heat; cook, stirring, until they become fragrant and start to take on a little color, 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool completely before using.
Nutrition | Per serving (using 3/4 teaspoon salt): 320 calories, 14 g protein, 31 g carbohydrates, 17 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 430 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 1 g sugar