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Grain Bowls with Miso Dressing

We recently discovered the wonder of the homemade grain bowl. With easy, relatively inexpensive make-ahead components, whipping up a week’s worth of quick meals is a snap. Even better than their simplicity, all those protein-rich grains, seeds and legumes are packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals. If you’re looking for nutritional bang for the buck, grain bowls are a great way to go. Oh, and they’re delicious, so there’s that!

A dish like a grain bowl is naturally variable. What goes into the bowl and in what proportions or combinations, is limited only by our imaginations. A grain bowl obviously calls for some sort of grain, but that could include any whole kernel or seed. If you need a plant-based complete protein, combining a whole grain like brown rice and a legume like lentils will do the trick.

We add a variety of fresh or roasted veggies to the bowl, depending on the temperature outside and what’s available in the veggie bins. For texture and color we like to include thinly shaved cabbage, fennel, or radish (or all three), as well as diced Persian cucumbers, roasted peppers, and toasted pumpkin seeds.

To keep it light on our bellies, we start with a base salad of chopped romain or arugula that we dress with a simple vinaigrette. After everything’s added to the bowl, the whole thing gets a little drizzle of a thick, aged balsamic vinegar. And then, if that weren’t enough, the top gets a drizzle of garlicky miso vinaigrette. It’s OK. The grains and beans in the bowl need the kick of flavor.

This may look like a lot to assemble, but grains are fairly quick cooking and require very little attention. With a couple of sauce pans, a measuring cup, and a kitchen timer (or two).

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Miso Vinaigrette
These are all approximate quantities. Every cook should personalize something like vinaigrette. Play with the flavors here and remember, that miso is very salty, so if you add salt, be careful with it.

1 tablespoon miso
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
3 tablespoons walnut oil
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely grated
Sesame oil
Black pepper to taste

Add miso and vinegar to a salad bowl and mash miso with the back of a spoon, incorporating the vinegar, until it forms a thin paste. Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk to blend. Adjust seasoning as desired.

Grain Bowl Basics
These grain quantities, cooked and stored in the fridge, will provide approximately 8 servings throughout the week:

1 cup 11 grain blend, dry (or your choice of rice, wheat, millet, whole oats, rye, barley, etc.)
1 cup French lentils, dry (the little ones)
1 cup quinoa, dry
1 bay leaf

For the lentils:
Lentil should be sorted to help remove tiny stones and clumps of dirt, then rinsed under cold water to remove dust.

Add lentils to a small pot with enough water to cover them by a couple of inches and turn the heat to medium. Add a half teaspoon salt to the water and the bay leaf to the pot. Once water comes to a boil, turn stove down and simmer lentils over low heat for approximately 25 minutes. The lentils are done when they’re tender but easily hold their shape.

For the 11 grain blend:
Add 11 grain blend (or brown rice) to a medium pot along with two cups of water. Add a half teaspoon salt to the water. Cover and set pot over medium heat. The moment the water comes to a boil, turn heat to lowest possible flame and keep the pot covered. Cook grain for 40 minutes. Leave covered and remove from heat and let stand for at least 10 minutes.

For the quinoa:
In a mesh strainer, rinse quinoa well to remove dust and the slightly bitter resin on the outer coating. Add quinoa to a pot along with two cups of water. Add a half teaspoon salt to the water and set the pot over medium heat. Bring pot to a boil, reduce to lowest heat possible and cover. Cook for approximately 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes, covered.

 

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Pantry Staples: Roasted Beets and Pickled Beet Greens

Beets are a year-round veggie staple here in California. The varieties available to us vary throughout the year, but beets in some form are available at just about every farmers market around, not to mention the big grocery chains. And like potatoes, they’re crazy adaptable, perfect in spring salads, earthy breakfast hashes, and chocolate cake. They’re better roasted than boiled. We scrub them clean, trim their greens and wrap them in foil to roast in a hot oven. Roasted beets are easy to peel once they cool a bit. They’ll keep in the fridge for a week in a sealed container.

Garden variety red beets are sweet and delicious. But if you’re able to get your hands on some beautiful golden or variegated varieties like chioggia beets, buy them. Their colors are beautiful and less likely to “bleed” than dark red varieties like Bulls Blood. We’ve roasted beets that look like jewels after roasting, with beautiful golds and pinks swirling around in them. They’re a fun way to play with color and texture in all kinds of dishes.

When we’re on our game, we buy beets with greens, rather than trimmed bulk beets, because the greens are delicious and they’re nutritious, long stalks and all. They’re tender enough to eat raw, but their mild flavor makes them endlessly useful in any recipe that calls for fresh greens. We use them in soups and risottos for added color and bite. We really love these pickled beet greens. They’re crunchy, vinegary and a little spicy, the perfect partner to anything you’d embellish with hot sauce or salsa or pickles. Of course, you can pickle just about any green, but if you’re looking to put a bunch of beet greens to better use than building compost, pickle them.

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Roasted Beet Roots

A bunch of beets (4-5 beet roots) with the greens intact
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Cut the stems from roots, setting the stems and leaves aside in cold water to clean and hydrate. Scrub the beet roots with a bristly brush to remove all mud and dirt. Dry the beets with paper towels.

On a baking sheet or in a roasting pan, place a large piece of aluminum foil in the bottom, enough to fold over the beets. Place the beets in the center of the foil and drizzle about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over them. Sprinkle liberally with salt, 1-2 tablespoons. Seal the beets inside the foil. Put the tray in the oven and roast for 40-60 minutes or until a knife pierces a beet easily. Remove from the oven and let cool for about an hour. Once cool enough to handle, using paper towels, peel the skins off the beets. The skins should easily slip off. Sometimes a paring knife is useful for peeling the beets if you want to take a more fussy approach.

Once the skins are removed, the beets can be sliced, diced, or served quartered. Keep them refrigerated and use in a salad or add to potato hash.

Pickled Beet Greens

Stems and leaves from a bunch of beets, and/or other greens
1/2 cup distilled vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
a good pinch of chili flakes
a good pinch of salt
pepper

In a medium pan, fill halfway with water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Meanwhile, clean and hydrate the beet stems and leaves in a bowl of ice water. Spin dry and separate the stems and leaves. Chop the stems into 1/8” pieces. Set aside. Combine all the leaves as tightly as possible, layering leaves on top of one another. Roll tightly, chop into 1/8”-1/4” strips. Chop the strips a few times to get smaller pieces. Set aside.

Add a pinch of salt to the boiling water then add the beet stems. Simmer for 3 minutes, then add the beet leaves. Simmer for 3 more minutes. Drain the stems and leaves (the water can be saved and used to flavor soups). Move the hot greens to a mason jar.

Over medium heat in a small pan, heat the vinegar, sugar, chili flakes, and salt. Heat until it almost comes to a boil. Pour the hot vinegar over the stems and leaves. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature until the stems cool completely. Once cooled, refrigerate for at least three days before using.

Add pickled beet greens to salads, soups, toasted bread, pizza, rice bowls.