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Have a healthy, happy Valentine’s Day!

Lately I’ve been looking for something I could make that would include:

  • protein
  • whole grains
  • vegetables
  • dark, leafy greens

Dave and I both love meals in bowls. The búns and salads at one of our favorite local Vietnamese restaurant, Saigon Cafe, are perfect one-dish meals because they’re full of noodles or greens, herbs, chicken or tofu or shrimp, and are happily topped by a tiny load of peanuts. The Chipotle bowls and salads are addictive and are happy layers of rice and beans with loads of spicy meat or crumbled tofu, my favorite vegan lunch to eat out. Rich and filling without being fattening, you can add cheese or guacamole if you’re feeling lean. The bright and just spicy enough pico de gallo is usually enough for me and I skip the extra fat calories.

At home I occasionally throw together similar meals, but generally leave it to the restaurants so we can enjoy the bowls there.  But when you eat all three meals together at home as we do (except when one of us travels, which is often), you begin to look for something that will be cooked up at either lunch or dinner, yet could provide leftovers for the next day so that you’re not always trying to create meals from scratch.  Today I spent the entire day going over the changes needed to be made to the book after the proof readers had their way with it.  I was buggy-eyed and sore-backed by the time I got out of my chair at 5.  (While it seems like it’s taking God’s own time, I’ve only been working on this book for a year and a half.  It’s just that I figured it’d be done just a bit more quickly.  Insert scream.)  In other words, I needed simple.

Soup Book-Cover final

So I kept thinking about a pot of brown rice.  A big pan of sautéed or grilled vegetables.  Freshly grilled fish.  I actually had an Asian direction in mind, but when I began cooking, I saw I had tomatoes and avocados that needed to be used, so with the addition of canned black beans, went the southwest route.   Just back from a wine trip to Paso Robles…

(below:  Drew Robinson, CS–talking wine at JUSTIN.  Drew did the wine pairings for my book, by the way.  More on the trip later!)

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…and about to embark of a few days in Florida with my sister, we needed to use the produce sitting on the counter.

What came to be was a big, shallow pasta bowl full of spinach, brown rice and beans, topped with lots of spicy sautéed vegetables and lovely slices of grilled tuna.  The tomatoes and avocados, along with a little bit of cilantro I found hiding a bag in the crisper, were scattered here and there for effect and a big squeeze of lime finished the whole thing off.

Next day’s lunch (below) could be a bowl of just rice and vegetables, perhaps with beans and salsa or even with a little grated Cheddar.   That means Dave won’t eat peanut butter and crackers over the sink.

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Might a novice-cook make this for Valentine’s Day?  I can’t see why not.  Try this:

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GRILLED TUNA BOWL 

Make the rice first –it takes 45 minutes —  while you fix the vegetables and tuna or even make it first thing in the morning. The vegetables can easily be changed to suit your tastes or larder — think mushrooms, asparagus, or green beans.

serves 4

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus a little to drizzle on brown rice
  • each sliced yellow bell pepper, sliced red bell pepper, sliced large red onion
  • Small zucchini, sliced into rounds
  • Kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Chili powder
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 fresh or frozen tuna filets, 6-ounces each (I used fresh frozen tuna in individual cryopaks from the local grocer)
  • 8 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 limes, cut into quarters
  • 3 – 4 cups cooked brown rice, seasoned with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil
  • 15-ounce can black beans, drained
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 2 avocadoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Cook the vegetables…In a large deep skillet, sauté the vegetables (peppers, onions, zucchini), seasoned with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and 1/8 teaspoon each crushed red pepper and chili powder (or to taste) in two tablespoons of the oil.  Cook until nearly tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

Next, grill or cook the fish…In the meantime, grill for two minutes on each side**, over high heat, the two pieces of   tuna brushed with the other tablespoon of olive oil and seasoned with a generous sprinkling of salt, pepper, and chili powder.  You can also use a heavy skillet or small griddle indoors, if you’d like.  Let the tuna sit a minute or so after cooking and then slice thinly.

To serve hot or at room temperature:  Divide the spinach between four large, shallow bowls or plates and push it to the the sides to create a large opening at the center.  Squeeze a little lime juice over the greens and sprinkle them lightly with salt and pepper.  In the center of the bowl, layer about 1/2 cup of rice, a large spoonful of beans, and another of the sautéed vegetable mixture.  Divide the tuna evenly among the bowls on top of the vegetables and garnish with chopped cilantro, tomatoes, and avocado.  Squeeze lime over each bowl and pass the pepper grinder or more crushed red pepper at the table.

**Medium-rare–quite pink through the middle. Cook approximately a minute longer on each side for medium and two minutes longer for well done.  You can absolutely cook frozen tuna; it will take a minute or so longer.

Wine: I typically like Pinot Noir with tuna, but in this case poured a Big-Chill California Chardonnay to play up the buttery avocado and creamy beans.  If you’ve really spiced up the bowl with crushed red peppers and chili powder, you might consider an off-dry Riesling from Washington, Germany, or even Oregon.  Look for the Rieslings with more than 10% alcohol; they will be the drier ones.

♥♥♥

Miss Gab (below) has been keeping me company while I write.  Just one of those nights when I woke up so often, I just finally got up, made a cup of tea, and wrote a blog post.

IMG_5099Sing a new song,

Alyce