Lemongrass Beef and Coconut Rice Bowls

Serves 4.

Note: Fresh lemongrass, chiles, cilantro and lime juice give the beef a bold but balanced flavor, while the quick pickled vegetables add the sweet, tart and crunchy notes to this addictively spicy coconut rice bowl. Lemongrass stalks can be found in most grocery store produce sections. For this recipe, trim the top and base of the stalks — you want to use only the bottom 4 inches or so. Then peel off any dry or tough outer layers before finely chopping. From Meredith Deeds.

• 1/2 c. rice vinegar

• 3 tbsp. sugar

• 1/2 tsp. salt

• 3 mini cucumbers or 1/2 hothouse cucumber, thinly sliced on the diagonal

• 2 carrots, cut into matchsticks

• 1 1/4 c. jasmine rice

• 1/2 c., plus 2 tbsp. water

• 1/2 c. plus 2 tbsp. coconut milk

• 2 tsp. vegetable oil

• 1 medium shallot, finely chopped

• 2 tbsp. finely chopped ginger

• 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

• 1 hot red chile or serrano chile, seeded and finely chopped

• 1 lb. lean ground beef

• 1/4 c. fresh lime juice

• 2 tbsp. fish sauce

• 1 tbsp. light brown sugar

• 2 lemongrass stalks, tender midsection only, finely chopped

• 1/4 c. chopped cilantro

• Sliced green onions, for garnish

• Sliced red chile, for garnish

Directions

In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar and salt until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cucumber and carrots. Toss to coat. Let stand for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place rice in a bowl and rinse a few times until the water runs mostly clear. Drain and place in a medium saucepan with the water and coconut milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and bring to a low simmer. Cover and cook for 15 to 18 minutes, or until rice is tender. Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Heat oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes, until softened. Add ginger, garlic and chopped chile and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the beef and cook, breaking the beef up with the back of a wooden spoon, for 6 to 7 minutes, until the beef is browned. Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, fish sauce and brown sugar. Stir into the beef mixture with the lemongrass and cilantro.

To serve, divide the rice into 4 serving bowls. Top each with the beef mixture and pickled vegetables. Garnish with green onions and red chile, as desired.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 540 Fat 16 g Sodium 865 mg

Carbohydrates 67 g Saturated fat 9 g Total sugars 10 g

Protein 29 g Cholesterol 72 mg Dietary fiber 3 g

Exchanges per serving: 3 starch, 1 ½ carb, 3 lean protein, 1 ½ fat.