Minnesotans love their winter vacations. The lucky few make jaunts to sunny destinations and return tanned and well fed.

If a Caribbean vacation was not in your budget this year, you can always make some island-inspired food. A bowl of coconut rice topped with tropical flavors and spring vegetables might just help blur the edges of the winter of ’19.

A Caribbean Rice Bowl With Banana Chutney might help us look ahead to spring. Putting the flavors of the islands into a convenient bowl format makes for an easy, family-friendly meal. You can even pack it for lunch at work.

At the base of your bowl is a pillowy cloud of coconut-infused basmati rice. Coconut milk is one of the staples of Caribbean cuisine, especially when added to rice. I’m usually a brown-rice zealot, but in this case, I went with white rice to really let the coconut flavor shine. If you prefer to use brown rice instead, be sure to add 1/2 cup more water and cook for 40 minutes.

Black beans are another Caribbean staple, and here they get a drizzle of lime, ginger, honey and allspice-infused vinaigrette. The slightly earthy flavor of the beans gets a lift from the bright citrus and zingy ginger. The beans are the “meat” of the meal, providing plenty of protein.

The banana chutney crowns the bowl with a creamy, sweet-and-sour element. It’s fun to try the familiar yellow fruit in something so different from the usual banana bread. The addition of ginger, lime, turmeric and curry powder lets the banana soar. This chutney is uncooked and quick to make — and so good you may want to put it on all of your food.

Peas, carrots, red onions and jalapeños take up stations on top of the rice. I prefer the red Fresno or red jalapeño for a colorful chile that is not too hot. If you are into chile cuisine, you can always step it up a notch to the hotter serrano, or the truly incendiary Scotch Bonnet that is used frequently in Caribbean food.

A big reason for the popularity of bowl food is that you can customize it, so feel free to use the vegetables that appeal to you.

May the flavors of the islands bring some sunshine to your meal.

 

Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of “Big Vegan” and “Plant-Based Meats.” Find her at robinasbell.