Weeknight Shorts: Thai Dinner Bowls

I bet I'm not alone in thinking time is flying by. September's already in the rear-view mirror and it just seems like it was summer a moment ago. So now's the time to save yourself some time. Dinner ideas that come together quickly and are served in a single bowl can really help:

Of course, it doesn't hurt if those same dishes take advantage of fresh seasonal produce and pack a flavor punch. As is often the case, I'm offering a recipe and suggesting tweaks you might try to help it serve many roles. Of course, the vegetables in this dish happen to be what I had on hand. You can use a wide variety of offerings: everything from green onions to sweet summer squash will work in this dish. I know the sauce components might seem a little overwhelming, but trust me when I say they work together to make an amazing flavor for your dinner table. Try it as indicated below at least once before you attempt to add more, less, or swap out particular ingredients. That said, you can also use ground beef, pork, chicken, or even turkey instead of the round steak. If you want to make this a vegetarian dish, consider using cubed tofu and omitting the fish sauce (although I really think that particular ingredient is under-utilized in cooking). Even the brown rice could make way for white rice or a variety of noodles.

I love the sweetness that the carrots, bell peppers, honey, basil, and peanuts bring to this dish. A bit of heat joins the party with the jalapeños, ginger, and chili sauce. Saltiness gets its turn with fish sauce and soy sauce (use tamari for a gluten free dish). And the beef and rice help make a foundation for a dish with a lot going on. Put it all in a bowl and dig in. Dinners with this much flavor and texture in about 20 minutes are a gift to be savored!

Thai Basil Beef Bowls

  • 2 large carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, diced
  • 1/2 small onion, sliced into thin wedges
  • 1 T. fish sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. honey
  • 1/3 c. + 2 T. reduced sodium soy sauce, divided
  • 2 T. sesame oil
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 2 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 lb. lean beef round steak, diced fine
  • 1/3 c. sweet thai chili sauce
  • 2 c. fresh basil leaves, sliced or chopped, plus extra for serving
  • Toasted sesame seeds + chopped roasted peanuts, for serving
  • 4 c. cooked brown rice (note: the time it takes to make the rice is also about how long it takes to make the rest of the dish)

Add the carrots, peppers, onion, fish sauce, honey, lime juice, and 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce to a medium bowl. Toss well and set aside.

Heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add the sesame oil; once it is hot, add the garlic and ginger. Fry for 15-30 seconds then add the beef. Season the beef with black pepper and brown all over, about 5 minutes. Once the beef is browned, add the 1/3 cup soy sauce, 1/3 cup sweet thai chili sauce, 1 cup of the fresh basil, and the reserved vegetables. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the sauce coats the beef, about 3-5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining 1 cup fresh basil.

Divide the brown rice among four serving bowls and top with equal amounts of beef and vegetables. Garish with fresh basil, toasted sesame seeds, and chopped peanuts.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

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