I like to say I have the perfect bowl for every occasion.

Cover courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen

As an avid collector of vintage dishes, I use that excuse largely to justify adding another bowl to my collection. But it’s also true: I eat out of bowls all the time and I like to make sure my meal is in a pretty one.

So “Bowls: Vibrant Recipes with Endless Possibilities” seemed, as my husband likes to say, a very “Gillian thing.” And it is.

I was aware that “bowls” are having a moment – I’m a big fan of both poke bowls and burrito bowls – but until I flipped through this book, it hadn’t occurred to me how much of my regular menu centers around the concept, particularly the lunches I prep for the week each Sunday.

“Bowls” includes 75 recipes, most of which rely heavily on vegetables and pantry staples, but the emphasis is on flexibility and customization. To that end, the “how to bowl” section offers a simple outline of how to construct a bowl (base + protein + vegetable + sauce + crunch) and a guide to using what you have on hand to create a vibrant meal.

Recipes range from the basic (Skillet Burrito Bowl and Buffalo Chicken Bowl) to the slightly more complex (Chimichurri Couscous Bowl and Weeknight Bibimbap), but none centers on hard-to-find ingredients.

The “Bowl Basics” section at the back of the book is the one that will be the most beneficial to me as a I look for ways to liven up my meal prep. Here, America’s Test Kitchen offers instructions for preparing different types of proteins and vegetables, ideas for toppings and recipes for more than two dozen sauces.

Almost all of the recipes, including the one I tested, serve two, unusual for a cookbook and making “Bowls” a good match for empty-nesters or other cohabiting twosomes.

My one gripe with this book: the “soup bowls” section. While the recipes look like good ones, that chapter seems out of step with the rest of the book. Yes, soup is always served in bowls, but the recipes had little in common with the idea of building a bowl emphasized in the rest of the book.

In keeping with the message of building a bowl based on the ingredients you have on hand, I grabbed a can of chickpeas off the shelf and went in search of a recipe to match. The “Pantry Chickpea Bowl” doesn’t have a very inspired name, but the dish itself was a good one. I particularly liked the balance of the peppery spinach, sweet tomatoes and tart lemon yogurt sauce.

And, of course, I had to serve it in the perfect dish: my favorite black-and-white gooseberry Pyrex Cinderella bowl, circa 1957.

Pantry Chickpea Bowl

Serves 2

1/4 cup plain yogurt

3/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 1/2 teaspoon juice

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, sliced thin

9 ounces (9 cups) baby spinach

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed

2 tablespoons oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed, patted dry and sliced thin

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 fried eggs

2 tablespoons chopped toasted pistachios

Combine yogurt and lemon zest and juice in a bowl; set aside until ready to serve. Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until light golden brown and beginning to sizzle, about 2 minutes. Add spinach, one handful at a time, and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in chickpeas, tomatoes, and pepper and cook until tomatoes are softened, 1 to 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide among serving bowls then top with fried eggs. Drizzle with yogurt sauced and sprinkle with pistachios.


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