I love bowls. Grain bowls, veggie bowls, noodle bowls – if it comes in a bowl I want to hear about it. To me, they are the perfect food. They can be virtuous or overly indulgent as need be. They can be complex or blissfully simple. And they can be customized to suit any dietary restriction or overly fussy eater. In short, bowl food is the best, and I can’t let a week go by without eating one. Today’s Fried Feta Bowls are my current favorite. They feature a bed of rice piled high with romaine, tomatoes, olives, cucumber, and pickled banana peppers drizzled with a lemon oregano vinaigrette. But the true star of the show is the sesame-coated slabs of fried feta topped with honey for that ultimate salty/sweet contrast. This bowl is truly the stuff of dreams.
Most of the bowls I make are what I like to call “alone food”. You know, the food you make for yourself when you’re unobserved. The last bowl I made for myself consisted of brown rice, kimchi, frozen dumplings, and a bagged sesame salad. My partner was working late, so I was flying solo. I ate it unceremoniously in front of old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And yes, this was a Saturday night, why do you ask?
Needless to say, this bowl wasn’t exactly blog-worthy but it was deeply satisfying. Another favorite is a fried egg on rice with kimchi and whatever sad veggies are lurking in my fridge. It’s usually leftover red cabbage. Why is a head of cabbage so hard to get through? What I’m trying to say is this blog sees only a quarter of the bowls I put together for myself. Today’s Fried Feta Bowl is the most recent bowl to make the “not too embarrassing” cut. This is a bowl I would serve to company, which I suppose just further highlights the versatility of the bowl format. A bowl can be black tie just as easily as it can be a pair of Costco sweatpants.
These Fried Feta Bowls start out with a rice cooker, or a pot on the stove because you guessed it, we’re going to make some rice. Feel free to use whatever rice you fancy. My current favorite is a mixture of brown basmati and Jasmine rice. It’s equal parts fluffy and hearty. With the rice underway, we can turn our attention to chopping. And there is a fair amount to do here, I’m sorry to say.
Start by mincing a clove of garlic. I always chop my garlic first to get it out of the way. I don’t particularly like mincing garlic and I find garlic presses a little wasteful and hard to clean. But that’s my journey. Tackle your garlic in whichever way you see fit. Next, we’re going to halve some cherry tomatoes and quarter and chop a mini cucumber. And, if you care excessively about appearances, slice a second cucumber. I like the look of having different cuts of cucumber in my bowl. And yes, my obsessiveness is an asset in my line of work, thank you for asking.
Next up, we have a head of romaine. Give it a fine chop. I have found I enjoy eating leafy greens more when they’re sliced into thin ribbons. I find them easier to chew and less overwhelming. And yes, I realize being overwhelmed by lettuce is extremely precious of me. Now, let’s talk olives. I used a mix of olives and I chose not to pit them. You can, of course, use whichever variety of olive you prefer and you can certainly pit them. But if you choose not to, make sure you warn your fellow diners and place a small bowl on the table for people to deposit their pits in.
With the chopping out of the way, let’s tackle the vinaigrette. If you’re the make-ahead sort, this dressing is a good candidate for that. It will keep sealed in the fridge for over a week, probably longer. But if you’re not much of a planner, don’t sweat it, this vinaigrette comes together in seconds. Simply place the minced garlic in a bowl and add olive oil, lemon juice, crushed red pepper flakes, oregano, and salt in a bowl. Give everything a whisk and you’re done. Chill the dressing in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
Now we’ve made it to the star of the show – the feta. I will warn you, this is the messiest portion of this recipe. But as far as breading experiences go, this is fairly painless. Start by cracking two eggs into a bowl. Lightly beat the eggs together and set them aside. Next place corn starch in a shallow bowl. If you don’t have cornstarch, flour or potato starch will also work. And finally, pour a lot of sesame seeds into another shallow bowl. I realize the amount of sesame seeds looks a little nuts, but I promise you will need them all. Now let’s bread. Take a piece of feta and dip it first into the egg. Roll the feta in the cornstarch before returning it to the egg. Finally, roll the feta in the sesame seeds and transfer it to a plate. Repeat with the remaining feta pieces.
Now, let’s fry the cheese! This is a shallow fry, so all we need is an inch of neutral oil in a skillet. Once ripples form on the surface of the oil, it’s good to go. Drop the breaded feta into the oil and fry until golden on both sides. Transfer the cheese to a plate lined with a paper towel and set aside to drain.
Okay, time for the fun part – building the Fried Feta Bowls. Create a bed of rice in a large bowl and add the lettuce, tomatoes, olives, cucumber, and of course, the feta. I think two pieces per bowl will suffice. Drizzle the feta with honey and the rest of the bowl with the vinaigrette you prepared earlier. Add pickled banana peppers if you want a pop of heat and dig in!
And that’s everything you need to know about these Fried Feta Bowls. This dish provides a contrast of flavors and textures that make it interesting enough for guests but cozy enough to eat in PJs.
Fried Feta Bowls
- 1 Large skillet
- 1 clove garlic minced
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 lemon juiced
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp salt
- 400g feta cut into 8 slabs **
- 2 eggs beaten
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 1 cup untoasted sesame seeds
- ⅓ cup neutral oil I used canola oil
- ⅓ cup honey
- 4 cups cooked rice
- 1 head romaine finely chopped
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
- 2 mini cucumbers chopped
- ½ red onion halved and thinly sliced
- 1 cup mixed olives
- ½ cup pickled banana peppers
- 1½ cup pita chips crushed
- Place the garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, oregano, and salt in a bowl. Whisk to combine and set it aside. ***
- Take a slab of feta and coat it in the egg mixture. Next, roll it in the cornstarch, then return it to the egg. Finally, roll the feta in the sesame seeds before transferring it to a plate. Repeat with the remaining pieces of feta.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet. Once the oil is rippling, add the feta and fry until golden on both sides. Work in batches and don't crowd the pan. The feta should take about 3 minutes on each side.
- Transfer the fried feta to a plate and immediately drizzle with the honey.
- Divide the rice across four bowls. Top the rice with the romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, olives, and banana peppers. Add 2 pieces of feta to each bowl and garnish with the crushed pita chips. Drizzle the lemon oregano vinaigrette over each bowl and serve immediately.