Thursday, February 1, 2018

A Grain Bowl Recipe for Skeptics

If you have paid attention to anything food-related this past year, you will know that one of the most popular, healthy, hippie-ish dishes to hit the scene is


The Grain Bowl.


No, it's not your grandmother's bowl of oatmeal, Cream of Wheat or farina. It is a savory dish: a concoction of fiber-full, vitamin-packed ingredients that seem to have absolutely nothing to do with each other that are all piled on top of a base layer of cooked grain—in a bowl.

I don't know about you, but to me that sounds like either an incredibly boring meal or an incredibly healthy-to-the-point-I-don't-want-to-eat-it meal. Was I born in the '70s? Yes. Did my neighbor grow pot in his backyard and eat—right in front of our boggling eyes—the slippery, slimy seaweed that we brought home from the beach? Yes. Did we eat his wife's beans and rice and love it? Yes.

But a grain bowl???

Sigh. It just seems like it's trying too TOO hard to be part of the club, you know?

But the fuss! The number of restaurants popping up and serving these damn things! I mean, seriously.

That means...yup. You loyal readers know me. I decided I needed to give it a try. (I still do have a good three pounds of Italy to come off. And it's already FEBRUARY!!! My male readers will have no idea why I just said that about February. Ladies, you know what I'm saying...)

SO. I decided to start simple. And who did I go to as my guide? My ever-faithful, besties-in-the-kitchen, Bon Appetit mag. (I'm telling you, folks. If you want to learn to cook, subscribe to this magazine. If I could figure out how to get their ad on this blog, that would be the ONE ad I would actually add so you could just click and subscribe. The folks who write it are fun. They are real. They aren't afraid to admit they are still learning in the kitchen, too. They are like US! Woohoo! So, until I can figure out how to get their ad on my blog, here's the link to GO SUBSCRIBE TO BON APPETIT MAGAZINE!)

The picture they put in the magazine that totally tempted me and made me give in can be found on Bon Appetit's website here. I used page 52 of my oh-so-special, January subscriber-only issue of Bon Appetit to guide me and gathered up my bowl ingredients:

  • pearled barley (it's what I had leftover from beef and barley soup)
  • bunch of curly kale (one with smaller, more tender stalks)
  • 2 small sweet potatoes
  • half a brick of halloumi cheese (a Greek melting cheese that has a really nice salty flavor)
  • slivered almonds
  • sunflower seeds
  • coriander seeds
  • and mint leaves.

I put the barley on to boil in salted water for 45 minutes, then got to prepping the rest of the ingredients so they were ready to layer on after the barley was cooked, drained and cooled.
  1. The sweet potatoes were scrubbed, dried, cut into 1-inch cubes, tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and a little paprika (I like hot but regular, ol' sweet is good) and roasted for 30 minutes at 400° F in my toaster oven.
  2. The curly kale leaves were cut from the stems (toss the stems), sliced crosswise then lengthwise, rinsed, dried and dumped in a bowl. I sprinkled them with a bit of salt and cider vinegar, then massaged them gently for about 30 seconds to start breaking down their tough fibers. The vinegar would do the rest while I moved on to my next ingredient.
  3. The slivered almonds, sunflower seeds and coriander seeds were tossed on medium heat in a tiny bit of olive oil until they were golden brown and the coriander seeds started popping (about 1 minute), then drained on a paper towel and sprinkled with salt and pepper.
  4. The mint leaves were rinsed, dried, and torn from their stems (stems tossed).
  5. Now it was time for the dressing: In a small jar, I shook together 6 oz. olive oil, the juice of 1 lemon, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, 1/2 tsp. honey, salt and pepper. This was more than enough dressing, but extra can be used on salad later.
  6. At this point the barley was ready: it had a nice chew to it. It was drained then scattered on a towel-lined baking sheet to dry (I have an abundance of flour sack towels which I use for purposes such as this, not just for drying my hands. I go through a dozen in about three days. Just don't wash them with fabric softener!).
  7. While the barley cooled, I fried the halloumi: I heated up a little bit of olive oil in a small cast-iron skillet (enough to just coat the bottom of the pan), browned both sides of the cheese, then sliced it.
Chopped curly kale for a grain bowl

Fried slivered almonds, sunflower seeds and coriander seeds for a grain bowl

Fried slices of halloumi cheese for a grain bowl

Cooked pearled barley for a grain bowl

Assembling all the parts into a bowl took all of one minute: the barley lined the bottom of a pasta bowl and was topped with a pile of kale greens, a scattering of roasted sweet potatoes, a few slices of fried cheese and a sprinkling of toasted seeds and mint leaves. It all was drizzled with the lemon-Dijon dressing, and voila!


My own, personalized grain bowl!


I think I had had a bit of wine at this point or I was really excited about my creation because I didn't realize until the next morning that I had gotten REALLY close on this pic. But, oh well. Because after I took my first bite of my first grain bowl EVER, I wanted to get that close and stay that close.

Does that mean it was delicious?

Yes.

A party in my mouth?

Yes!

A marching band of foods that combined into a perfect explosion of flavor and texture symmetry?

YES!!!

I think you know what I'm going to say to the "Will I make this again?" question. And you know what the beauty of this meal is? The parts can all be made or prepped ahead and simply reheated or quickly cooked as needed. A weeknight dinner that will make you happy in, OH! So many ways!

So, hippies! Rejoice! You converted a total skeptic, and I will declare it loudly to the world:

I LOVE GRAIN BOWLS!!!


But Dwight, wherever you are: the raw seaweed?

Hell, NO.

Ready to give the grain bowl a try? Leave a comment and let us know what you did! Go crazy! Use what you have and what you like! You'll give us some more ideas of things to try! 

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