Come the weekend, we’re communal food people. I’ve talked about this same topic over these fajitas and this podcast recently. I like food speckled across the table as the centerpiece, mostly because it seems fitting. The table is our meeting place, our sustenance. I like the way passing bowls full of food gently nudges the start of a conversation. Can you pass the rice? And the beans?
I like the way it evens the playing field. We all need to be fed. And the way it makes you linger at the table longer. I like the way it transports you to a part of the conversation you wouldn’t normally get to otherwise. That’s about the same time the chips come out and the bits of guacamole and salsa disappear.
I like the way it fills your belly and nourishes your soul with simple, honest ingredients. Mostly, I like the way food becomes this unassuming vehicle of good. There’s a transaction waiting to be had at the tip of very spoonful and at the lip of every bowl passed.
But most days, I don’t like the work it takes to prepare. The bowls it takes to dirty. And the mess it leaves in its wake. That part, I hate. But the tiny slice in the middle of all that—the eating, the sharing, the conversing—that will always be worth it. This table, these bowls of food, and the conversations that follow, this is the important stuff.
Vegetarian Chipotle Bowls were a thing of our past. Pre-baby, we’d come home from work, head to the gym, and pick up a Chipotle burrito bowl to be split for dinner. Always a vegetarian bowl because it was the least expensive item on the menu with plenty of guac at no additional charge. The minute we became a family of 2.5 with extra friends around the table, Vegetarian Chipotle Bowls became a thing we made at home, mostly on the weekends. I’ve studied the ingredient list from Chipotle to compile this recipe. The secret—season each component similarly and subtly to achieve harmony. There’s no solo in this song, just a humble harmony. This recipe is one for passing around the table.
Note: this recipe has duplicate ingredients in the ingredient list. The rice, beans, and guacamole are seasoned the same. I’ve broken it out in such a way for ease in preparation. I’ve used similar measurements throughout, so a liquid measuring cup, a tablespoon, and a 3/4 teaspoons will get you through this recipe.
Prepare rice. Add all rice ingredients excluding the lime juice and cilantro to a saucepan. Set aside.
Prepare beans. Into another saucepan, add all beans ingredients excluding the lime juice. Set aside.
Prepare veggies. Slice peppers and onions to the same thickness. Add into a cast iron skillet with remaining ingredients. Set aside.
Cook rice, beans, and veggies. Sauté veggies on medium-high heat, using tongs to stir occasionally. Bring both the rice and beans to a boil. Once boiling, cover and turn to medium low for 10 minutes. Stir once. At 10 minutes, turn heat off of rice and beans and allow to sit covered. Check veggies. Cook a minute or two longer if needed.
Make guacamole. Stir all guacamole ingredients together until just combined, chopping extra cilantro and squeezing more lime for the rice and beans.
Prepare garnishes. Grate cheese. Chop spinach. Set out salsas. Just before serving, discard bayleaf from rice. Add lime juice and cilantro. Carefully stir/fluff together until just combined. To the beans, discard bayleaf and drain off extra liquid using a chef’s knife at the edge of the pot or using a strainer. Stir in lime juice. Assemble bowls and serve.