AUGUST 28, 2020

bowls from american test kitchen

CHEW Cookbook Review: Bowls

Bowls: Vibrant Recipes with Endless Possibilities

Published by America’s Test Kitchen, 2020

So many food trends have emerged in the last few years that it can take considerable effort to land on the one that best suits our own life situation and tastes. I love to try any and all, but I have a tendency to follow most closely those trends that had been, as it turns out, already happening right in the kitchen but that needed some guidance from innovative recipes.

The at-home ‘bowl’ concept seems to fit nicely in this category. Fresh, practical, delicious and informal daily cooking becomes a practical art in bowls: Vibrant Recipes with Endless Possibilities, published by America’s Test Kitchen, the always reliable publishers of Cook’s Illustrated, a magazine that prides itself on “testing a recipe with a complete lack of preconceptions, which means that we accept no claim, no technique, and no recipe at face value. We simply assemble as many variations as possible, test a half-dozen of the most promising, and taste the results blind.” In a way, the test kitchen has much in common with the home cook – always testing food combinations in hopes for finding keepers.

bowls cookbook

From bowls there are the more obvious pieces of advice that we gain, like “the ideal bowl balances creativity with ease,” and “raid your pantry (and fridge).” Both of these seem especially poignant at a time when we consider our frequency to the grocery store more than ever. We are reminded that the “anatomy of a bowl” consists of a base, a protein, a vegetable, a sauce, and some crunch, and that we don’t have to feel at a loss if we don’t have precise ingredients for recipes because many of these components will be interchangeable based on what you have on hand.

Finally, ‘make ingredients ahead,’ major tip number two, is a valued step in making the process of ‘bowl-ing’ fun as it offers the cook spontaneous creativity when the time comes to put the bowl together. Add to these a few more artful techniques – purposefully varying colors and textures and following the cooking mantra that less is better (fewer quality toppings can be far more delicious than packing on too many and turning the bowl to mush), and we are on our path to becoming a ‘bowl master.’ This might include pickling some of our vegetables, making our own sauces, adding our secret favorite crunch (i.e. bean sprouts), and sauteing ingredients for the sake of complexity.

ramen noodle bowl

Think of the innovative “Rainbow Bowl” in the context of raiding the refrigerator and becoming a bowl master – it’s a beautiful assemblage (we are reminded visual makes a big difference with bowls!) of peeled and sliced orange, cherry tomatoes, arugula, ½” pieces of avocado, radishes, roasted beets and crispy Tempeh (or other tofu on hand). Spread over the top an Orange-Ginger Vinaigrette for citrus bounce and here is a little masterpiece that seems to transcend flat plate salad. Shrimp and grits, summer ramen, black bean soup… these are all bowl types with their own dedicated section including multiple ideas for swap-outs. The cookbook offers home cooks as many innovative options as there are hours of appetite.