Jamaican Jerk Bowls & Creamy Cilantro Dressing

Jamaican Jerk Chickpea BowlsBowls. They’re more than just dinnerware; they’re like an entire subculture of vegan meals. In fact, I would rank bowls — again, not the dinnerware kind, but the stuff inside it — high on the list of things every new vegan should learn about fast. Along with nutritional yeast and cashew cream, bowls might be the single biggest staple in my diet. And the fun part of this staple is that it’s entirely customizable — maybe that’s why I’m so in love with them.

And yet, for a recipe blog highlighting some of my favorite vegan meals, bowls have been completely underrepresented, if not entirely forgotten, on this forum. I feel like a bit of a fraud, in fact, in that my weekday meals usually consist of at least one or two big bowls of beans, grains, tofu, veggies and some sort of sauce — yet very rarely have I shared those meals here. It is apparent to me that a good, hearty “bowl” recipe has been long overdue.

This Caribbean-inspired dish is a great excuse for me to break my habit of not sharing my kitchen sink bowls here, as it’s not quite kitchen sink, but still captures the spirit of what a meal bowl should be. It’s simple, but also just fancy enough to impress, should you need to. And even though I’m sharing the central components of this recipe here, the rest is —  again — entirely amenable to variation. For example, while I used steamed kale as a base in this dish, you might opt for a grain such as cooked quinoa, millet or rice. Or you could just turn this into a salad, using fresh salad greens as a base.

Jamaican Jerk Bowls

I’ve long been a fan of anything Jerk seasoned. In my pre-vegan days, that something was usually chicken. And it was usually dry and overcooked and would have been lackluster had it not been for the seasoning. So it didn’t quite come as a surprise to me when I first tried the Jerk-chickpea combo and loved it more than I ever loved Jerk chicken. In fact, I’m thinking this is going to be a staple in many meals to come. These chickpeas are the perfect salad-topper, high protein snack and, of course, addition to your Jamaican or Caribbean-themed bowls. The dressing is equally versatile. You can use it as a nice change-of-pace dressing, as I plan to do in the future. It also makes a nice alternative to ranch as a veggie dip. I used Brazil nuts for a healthy twist and selenium boost, though I am sure raw cashews would work as well.

Speaking of bowl recipes on this site, I actually checked out the situation and here’s the deal: the only other one on here is these Fajita Bowls with Pineapple Pico De Gallo. And while I further build up my bowl repertoire, here are some other loaded gluten-free, vegan bowl recipes on the blogosphere to check out (just make sure each individual ingredient you buy is gluten-free — e.g. some brands of liquid smoke, used in the Hoppin’ John bowl, are, while others aren’t):

I noticed that, if there’s a discernible trend from the above examples, it’s that we vegans love our bowls (obviously), but we also love our roasted chickpeas. And for good reason — they’re delicious!

Note: I’m not going to post serving-sizes here, as it would sort of defeat the purpose of making bowls for dinner — you can make as little or as much of the base components as you like. The chickpea recipe makes about 1 1/2 cup chickpeas, while the dressing recipe can dress about 3-4 bowls or one large dinner salad for a big group. It can also keep in the refrigerator for a day or two. 

Jamaican Jerk Bowls with Creamy Cilantro Dressing:

Ingredients:

Base and vegetable components:

Steamed kale (or grains of choice)

Sliced red pepper

Shredded Carrots

Sliced Avocado

Sliced mango (optional, not pictured)

Sliced red onion (optional, not pictured)

Chickpeas:

1 1/2 cups canned chickpeas (about 14 oz. or one can), drained and rinsed

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste

Creamy Brazil-Nut Cilantro Dressing:

1/2 cup Brazil Nuts

1/2 cup unsweetened, unflavored almond milk

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped (about 1/2 bunch of cilantro)

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon sea salt, depending on taste

Directions:

1. To make chickpeas: Toss all ingredients in a large bowl. Lay flat on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 25 minutes, or until desired crispiness is reached (I like mine to be just slightly crispy on the outside and still a little soft on the inside — not quite “crunchy” for this dish). Then remove, taste for salt and sprinkle with salt to taste. Set aside.

2. To make dressing: Add all ingredients to a high-powered blender such as Vitamix and blend until smooth (will be a little less smooth if using Brazil nuts than cashews). I blend mine for a good 30 seconds. Scrape down sides and add a tablespoon or two of water, if desired, to thin out (I did not use any water).

3. To assemble: Arrange steamed kale or grain of choice on the bottom of a large bowl (I like these bowls from Crate & Barrel). Add toppings, including chickpeas, in sections. Drizzle with desired amount of dressing and serve.

 

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