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.

 

Hummus Two Ways

Seasoned simply with salt, hummus really is the sort of thing we can all whip up at a moments notice since the pantry staples used are common and relatively inexpensive. Never mind that blending it up is a snap. And because the chickpeas, the primary ingredients of this dip, happen to be packed with fiber and protein and are naturally low in fat, hummus can be enjoyed as an everyday food, fit for foodies and fast-food junkies alike.

Our pantry is stocked with a mix of chickpeas (garbanzos) canned and dried, which we add to soups, pasta dishes, and veggie hashes. Puréed with tahini and garlic (fresh or roasted), chickpeas become thick, creamy hummus, perfect as a dip for toasted pita and raw veggies. The tahini adds richness in the form of sesame oil. The garlic, when raw, adds flavor and heat, depending on how much of it you use. And when the garlic is roasted the unami flavor is at it’s peak! Toasted cumin, while not traditional, lends an earthy depth of flavor to hummus, while the lemon juice brightens it.

You can imagine, given its texture and mild neutral flavor, that puréed chickpea mixes well with other flavors. Here, we’ve gone in a couple of different directions. In one batch, we added puréed butternut squash to the hummus and topped it all with sage-infused olive oil and toasted pumpkin seeds. In the second batch, we added roasted eggplant and freshly ground cumin seeds. Any type of roasted or cooked vegetable can be pureed and added to hummus. It’s a great way to sneak in some extra nutrition while adding a unique spin on a traditional middle eastern classic.

We’re already planning our next batch of hummus. Using roasted pureed beets which will add sweetness and dramatic color to the dip as well as an earthy, vegetal taste. It will be the perfect thing to contribute to a Labor day get together.

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Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus

2 cups cooked chickpeas in water (canned ok, homemade preferred)
2 cups roasted butternut squash
5 cloves roasted garlic
1/2 cup tahini
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, freshly ground
4 tablespoons olive oil
8-10 sage leaves
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
salt & pepper

Drain the chickpeas, reserving the water. Add them to a food processor along with the squash, tahini, ground cumin, salt and pepper. Pulse a few times then process for a minute or two until a smoothish consistency, adding two tablespoons olive oil through the feeding tube during the process. If the hummus is too thick, add a little of the reserved bean water. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat the other two tablespoons olive oil in a small sauce pan until hot. Add the sage leaves a few at a time, cooking until the leaves are fried, anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute or two, depending on the size of the sage leaves. Drain the leaves on a paper towel and set aside to cool. Allow oil to cool.

Once the leaves are cool, set aside a few of the nicest leaves for garnish and then crumble the rest into the hummus and pulse a few more times. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the hummus into a serving bowl and top with the reserved fried sage leaves and sage oil. Sprinkle on toasted pumpkin seeds.

Serve with toasted pita chips.

Roasted Eggplant Hummus

2 cups cooked chickpeas in water (canned ok, homemade preferred)
2 cups roasted eggplant
5 cloves roasted garlic
1/2 cup tahini
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, freshly ground
salt & pepper

Drain the chickpeas, reserving the water. Add them to a food processor along with the roasted eggplant, tahini, ground cumin, salt and pepper. Pulse a few times then process for a minute or two until a smoothish consistency, adding the olive oil through the feeding tube during the process. If the hummus is too thick, add a little of the reserved bean water. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the hummus to a serving bowl and top with a little more ground cumin, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Serve with toasted pita chips.