Rediscover the grown-up pleasures of eating off a plate
Decades of eating from a bowl eventually dug me into a deep rut. It happened slowly, spoonful by spoonful, until one day about a month ago I stared into the abyss that was my meal and realized: This is a volcano of food dripping hot lava and I’m eating it with a shovel. And the thing about bowl dishes is, after you bust in and stir it all up, every bite is the same.
In 2024, let’s set the bowls aside for a bit; full size plates are where grown-ups go to play. Let’s resolve to separate the grains from the vegetables, explore meals with a fork at the left and a blade on the right, and drag our tastiest morsels through a landscape of pooled juices and swooshed sauces.
Now who’s with me?
I understand the reluctance. Especially given my history of unbridled enthusiasm for bowls. Bluster aside, it’s obvious that no one (including me) can give them up entirely. And there will always be moments when we need to hang on to comfort with both hands. But after a couple of months hacking out a new trail, I’m prepared to make the case for eating almost everything from plates. Even the stuff you’d least expect. For your consideration, four new recipes …
The beauty of cooking vegetables in tomato sauce is that you control how “stewed” they are. And if you’re like me, that changes every time you make them—though generally I say the softer the better. For this recipe I’m going with escarole. Other choices to cook the exact same way: eggplant, fennel or celery, green beans, cabbage, or other greens like kale or collards.
Deconstructing leftover chicken soup—or any brothy soup, actually—gets you liquid to use for whatever and solids to make a surprising and amazing salad. This recipe describes how to spruce things up for a lovely cold plate for one. Simply multiply the recipe for more servings. Turkey, seafood, or vegetable soups are other options to consider. You could also turn the salad into a sandwich or tacos or toss it with cooked rice or grains or drained beans.
Whole grains cooked into porridge—and by “porridge” I mean more soupy than stiff—works shockingly well on a plate. And it gives you a broad canvas for scattering sweet or savory accents and stir-ins. The directions below work with oats (rolled or steel cut), quinoa, millet, coarse cornmeal, cracked wheat, buckwheat groats or kasha, short-grain brown rice, or mixed-grain ground hot cereals.
Roasting root vegetables is great; they brown without turning to mush. Bean seasonings are up to you. Use chopped ginger instead of garlic, or za’atar, chili powder, or a curry instead of the Italian blend. Or simmer the beans in a splash of coconut milk instead of oil. There’s a vegan choice here, too. If you prefer to mash the vegetables in the pot, go for it, though this technique gives a variety of textures and looks pretty cool.