Imagine this situation:
Everything’s fine so far. But what about all those dirty bowls you now have to rinse?
Your choices: either spend your evening cleaning them by hand, or fill up your dishwasher completely (if they’ll even fit)! This takes you away from spending precious time with your loved ones, right?
Here’s an idea: save a few precious minutes and keep the good times rolling at the table instead with these fancy, tasty, edible bowls. They’re not just fresh, fun, and different for a nice change of pace – they also look great, and you can even create them from common food scraps!
It’s far easier to make edible bowls than you might think, since some foods seem as if they’re simply predestined for use as receptacles for other foods. The ideal edible bowls have strong leaves, firm skin, or can be hollowed out to make a perfect bowl shape.
Those are just some basic guidelines. Here are some wonderful and creative ideas for you to prepare natural, edible bowls for every occasion.
A Leafy Dish
There are some foods that really don’t need any further preparation to work as edible bowls – and cabbages and lettuces are up for the task!
Some varieties of cabbage are absolutely perfect candidates, though not all. Think about the beautiful structure of savoy cabbage, or the vibrant color of red cabbage – if the cabbage has large, colorful outer leaves that keep their shape when taken off whole, you’ve got a good set of edible dishes right there, prepped and ready to go in no time.
Just carefully snip off individual leaves straight from the cabbage head, then wash and dry each, and you’re done! Filled with some yogurt dip or finger food, they make a fabulous impression for buffets or at brunch, alongside a big pitcher of spicy bloody marys.
Keep in mind that they work best with cold dishes. Otherwise, the leaves will become flabby, wilted, and lose their ability to hold anything firmly enough.
Not only is cabbage nice for this – some varieties of lettuce can be used, too.
Iceberg lettuce is one example that’s firm and crunchy, making it a good choice.
Plus, the great advantage of both cabbage and lettuce receptacles is this: you can simply eat the basket itself. This way, you’re free of additional waste and cleanup!
Other leafy vegetables like chicory and radicchio can often be used as well, as little boats for plating salads and dips.
You might already be aware that stuffed bell peppers make a great baked oven dish. Using the same basic concept, these veggies also make wonderful natural bowls.
Simply cut a large bell pepper in half, remove the seeds, and fill with whatever you choose. Bell peppers are better than other veggies for serving warm dishes, since the structure is not as sensitive as that of lettuce or cabbage leaves.
Another food that I love for this serving idea: tomatoes! Especially the larger varieties, like giant beefsteak.
Tomatoes will impress your guests when you serve them as a snack, or with a little side salad inside.
All you need to do: cut off a lid right below the stem base, remove it, then hollow out the inside by carefully removing the seeds, and fill.
To make this work properly, you need to use really fresh tomatoes with firm skins, and a very sharp knife. Otherwise, they might not make it through the hollowing process – and these will fall apart.
The same advantages as with lettuce and cabbage apply, and you can let your guests eat the tomato right away.
Another tip: pumpkins, zucchini and other types of summer squash, and winter squashes like butternut and hubbard can be used as serving bowls, too. However, a little more effort may be required to hollow out and prepare these – softening them first and roasting them off is necessary for most varieties to be edible.
So if you want to keep it quick, you might want to stick to the simpler choices above. But don’t overlook a nice pumpkin or squash bowl for a delicious roasted vegetable dish in season!
A Doughier Option
A wonderful eye-catcher for your dinner table or brunch buffet is a bread bowl.
For this, you can either bake your own loaf, or buy one. A round loaf works better than a long narrow loaf, because it looks more similar to an actual bowl, and it will fit nicely on a plate. Individually sized boules with a hard crust are perfect for this use.
You can fill it with various things. If you choose to serve a soup, you have to consider that the inside of the bread will become a bit mushy – but with many varieties of soup, it tastes delicious! Just be sure to serve these right away, once they’re filled.
Of course, there are other possibilities with bread bowls, too:
- You can use them as breadbaskets for serving other smaller loaves, sliced baguettes, or crisp rolls.
- Fill them up with green salad and serve dressing on the side.
- Fill with snacks like olives, cheese cubes, or potato chips.
- Fill with hummus, and serve raw veggies like carrot and celery sticks.
- Even some small, cold meatballs for a buffet could be served in there, with dipping sauce alongside it!
While emptying the bowl as you go, especially if it’s filled with a nice dip or sauce, guests can break off some pieces from the top of the rim and consume the container itself!
An artichoke spinach dip is excellent for this. Try slicing the lid off a loaf of pumpernickel bread and cut the insides (if you’re able to carefully scoop them out mostly intact) into bite-sized chunks for dipping. Put out long fondue forks or skewers, for guests to help themselves.
Take warning, though: when hollowing out the loaf, you might wind up with a mess. If the bread can’t be cubed nicely, whiz it up in the food processor to make breadcrumbs for later use.
If you’re not going the dipping route, you still don’t have to waste this precious stuffing. Why not make some crispy croutons by frying up the bread bits in a pan, with olive oil and fresh herbs, or maybe some minced garlic? Jazz up your soups and salads with this tasty topping.
Make it fruity!
Salad and soup aren’t the only things you can serve in edible bowls – there are amazing possibilities to arrange your dessert or ice cream in natural dishes as well.
Fruits are perfect for the job! Not all kinds of fruit are suitable for this of course, but who could ignore a fruity orange cream dessert served in an actual orange? Or a lemon filled with frosty sorbet?
The approach to certain fruits (like citrus) can be compared to hollowing out tomatoes. Cut off a lid on top, and scoop out the inner pulp. Be very careful not to tear the skin!
Citrus fruits in general work really well because their pulp can be removed quite effortlessly, though you do have to be delicate.
You can also choose different types of melons, and use a melon baller to serve the pulp that you’ve removed in an attractive way. Watermelons, honeydew, and cantaloupe make great bowls for fruit salads.
Pineapples also can be cut vertically or horizontally, and they do a great job of holding cold, sweeter dishes like sorbets, or a fruity chilled soup.
For a variety of sweet (and savory) chilled soups just begging to be served in edible bowls, check out our round-up post!
One splendid idea: serve drinks or cocktails like this as well! What about a pina colada in a pineapple, or freshly squeezed fruit juice inside a grapefruit?
Have you tried any of these ideas before? Or do you have other suggestions or experiences of your own? Share your thoughts and comments with us below!
Photo credits: Shutterstock.
About Nina-Kristin Isensee
Nina lives in Iserlohn, Germany and holds an MA in Art History (Medieval and Renaissance Studies). She is currently working as a freelance writer in various fields. She enjoys travel, photography, cooking, and baking. Nina tries to cook from scratch every day when she has the time and enjoys trying out new spices and ingredients, as well as surprising her family with new cake creations.