California Bowl {Salmon Rice Bowl with Avocado + Cucumber Guacamole}

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Lately we’ve been glorying in some gorgeous pre-spring weather here in Seattle. Cherry blossoms, daffodils, and oodles and oodles of delicious sunshine. I can’t get enough of it. The great outdoors is a-callin’ (also the zoo), and what it’s saying to me is, “Get your tush outdoors, and by the way, dinner is going to need to be simple. Because you do. not. want to waste all this gorgeous in the kitchen.”

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Having grown up in the snowy lake-effect regions of upstate New York, I never thought much of spring. It was a tiny, slushy blip in the calendar between knee-deep snow and a sweaty summer. I can’t recall how many Easters I spent digging colored eggs out of the snow with my mittened paws, but it was definitely more than once. Fall was gorgeous. Spring was relatively forgettable.

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By contrast, spring in Seattle comes in on a balmy, February breeze and hangs around until sometime mid-summer. It’s a good thing.

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You can probably tell, but I’m extremely seasonal when it comes to cooking. If it’s sunny out, the last thing I want is a pot of soup, a heavy roast, or any potato that doesn’t come in salad form and slathered in mayonnaise. I want fresh, crisp, and cool. Unfortunately, end-of-winter produce is usually slim pickings. Kale, carrots, and cabbage. What’s a girl to do?

Short of buying the hot-house tomatoes that taste like the anemic, awkward cousin of the ripe-off-the-vine-in-August Real Thing in my grocery bin, I’ve found there are a few ingredients that are available year round (at least round these parts) that reliably pack a good warm-weather punch. Pair them up with a spice-rubbed salmon fillet, and a bowl of fluffy white rice, and you’ve got a family favorite that screams Sunny San Diego no matter where you hail from!

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The ingredients in this recipe reminded my husband so much of California Rolls (you know, sushi for sissies) that I decided to name the dish after them. Unlike it’s namesake, California Bowl does feature fish (cooked, so if sushi makes you queasy, don’t worry). I suppose you could make a vegan version by skipping the salmon, but then I will have to make a sad face. I love salmon. Especially Pacific salmon, which is redder and waaaaaaay tastier than anything you can get back east. (Buy from an ethical, sustainable, wild caught source to keep these pretty babies swimming for generations to come!)

I’m toying with the idea of creating a wasabi mayo to drizzle on the top, what do you think? For now, I’m giving it to you straight-up.

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I should warn you, it’s addicting. My husband has declared this his all-time favorite dinner. If he so much as spies an avocado on the counter, he’ll turn to me with that look in his eye, like a puppy who hears it’s leash being taken off the hook. “Are we having California Bowl?” My response can dictate the mood for the rest of the evening. Whenever possible, I aim for a resounding yes.

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California Bowl
from the Humble Baker

Print recipe here.

Yes, I included a recipe for rice. This is because I have actually been asked many times how one cooks rice without (1) running out of water, thus (2) burning the rice, or (3) having the rice come out so tasteless you wouldn’t feed it to the dog. Alas, many of us grew up on Uncle Ben’s and therefore have never had to do more than “follow the box.” But what if you buy a nice big bulk bag of rice (cheaper and more environmentally conscious) and THERE. IS. NO. BOX. You imagine Agent Smith looking over your shoulder like the creeper that he is. “Good evening, Mr. Anderson. I invite you to cook some rice. If you can.” If you already know how to make a pot of palatable rice, then kudos. You can skip that bit.

Prep time: 15 minutes (can be done in parallel with cook time)
Cook time: 35 minutes
Yield: 4 adult servings

for the rice:

1 ½ cups short grain white rice (preferably sushi style)
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil (or other neutral tasting oil)

for the salsa:

2 avocados, peeled, pitted and diced
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
1 small red onion, peeled and diced
¼ cup cilantro, minced
½ teaspoon salt
juice of 1 lime

for the salmon:
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon brown sugar
½-3/4 teaspoon ancho chile powder
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
4 salmon fillets, skin on and deboned
2 tablespoons olive oil

Put all rice ingredients into an appropriately-sized saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and keep at a low simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and fluff with a fork.

While you’re waiting for the rice, you can get started on everything else. Begin by preheating the oven (with rack placed in the center position) to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and placing a baking sheet on the rack. Once the oven comes to heat, let the baking sheet stay put and warm up for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine all salsa ingredients in a small bowl and leave at room temperature for at least 10 minutes or up to 1 hour. Anything beyond this and the avocado will begin to lose its fresh look. (Still tasty, though.)

Prepare the salmon rub by combining 2 teaspoons salt, the brown sugar, the ancho powder, and the black pepper in a ramekin or other small dish. Rub it into the fleshy side of the fish fillets. Feel free to massage (and double-check for stray bones). Drizzle with the olive oil. Carefully place the fillets skin-side down on the hot baking sheet. Close the oven and roast until the thickest part of the fillet is still translucent but flakes easily with the edge of a paring knife or fork when tested, about 10 minutes.

Remove the fish from the oven. Fill bowls with rice. Slip the salmon fillets off the skin (it will stick to the baking sheet – it’s easy to scrape off with a spatula once cooled, making for pretty easy clean-up). Place the fish on top of the rice. Top with salsa. Serve hot or room temperature, and preferably al fresco. Corona pairs well. Bonus points for margaritas.

Print recipe here.

4 comments

  1. Jessi says:

    That looks delicious! I will definitely try this recipe out sometime. But how did you afford salmon while doing your Lent challenge!? I can barely ever afford it on a regular grocery budget! (Of course I suppose it’s much cheaper where you’re located.)

    • Bethany says:

      Ah yes, well, cheaper it may be but still too expensive at the moment. These pictures were from before Lent. Actually, I consider the writing of this post to be a Lenten sacrifice in itself because I am now *craving* this salmon! Haha

  2. Kim W says:

    Looks so very good. I miss fresh Pacific Salmon. Here on the East Coast wild caught salmon is very expensive, but this sounds like a great way to have “fish on Friday”.

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