Grain bowls can be made with elements of your favorite food and flavors, photographed on Feb. 3, 2021, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Grain bowls can be made with elements of your favorite food and flavors, photographed on Feb. 3, 2021, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Kalifornsky Kitchen: Grain bowl goodness

I’m thinking about food as an expression of myself and an opportunity to experiment in the kitchen.

By Victoria Petersen

For the Peninsula Clarion

My lunches have been pretty uninspired lately.

I work from home, so I have the freedom to make something great to eat during the day, but even so, I still want something I can just throw together and heat up in the microwave.

I was feeling particularly productive, and had a hankering for Greek food, so I decided to throw together the elements of a grain bowl. I made a bag of couscous that has been sitting in our pantry unopened for months, fried up a can of chickpeas in spices and olive oil, roasted carrots and chicken thighs in a spicy homemade harissa honey sauce and dolloped with homemade tzatziki with feta crumbles.

The bowls made a great dinner, and in the following days, great lunches. I still have tzatziki left, which I plan to use on salmon in the coming days.

Maybe you’ve had or made a kind of grain bowl, or a Buddah bowl as they are sometimes called. I’ve been on Pinterest a lot lately, searching for the best combinations and ratios for the ultimate well-balanced meal in a bowl.

So I’m going to share with you a template for making your own grain bowl, which can include your favorite foods and flavors to make a meal that’s really YOU.

I know it’s just food, and it’s just another meal in a lifetime of having to feed yourself every single day (which is so exhausting when you think about it) — but I found it inspirational to build this grain bowl in my head, find exactly what I wanted to put in it, and then really enjoy eating it.

I’m thinking about it as an expression of myself and an opportunity to experiment in the kitchen.

Below, I’ve included my recipe for tzatziki, which is made from yogurt, dill and cucumbers. It’s super fresh tasting, and is great to eat with pita bread, pita chips, on top of salmon and of course on top of a grain bowl. In the meantime, read on to learn my template for creating your new favorite lunch.

Creating your perfect grain bowl

Step one: Figure out the theme of your grain bowl, and the flavors you’re hoping to get out of it. For me, that was Greek and Moroccan flavors. Dill, yogurt, harissa, lemon juice were all things that I wanted to incorporate into my bowl. Gather up your spices and build on the flavors you’re looking to bring out. Think about what you’re craving. Mexican flavors could include lime, cumin, whatever taco seasoning you have in your pantry, salsas, chili powder and chipotle peppers. Thai flavors could include coconut milk, lime, cilantro, fish sauce and more.

Step two: Find the base grain you’re going to use. This could be rice, brown rice, couscous, quinoa, a piece of toast, naan bread, cauliflower rice, or any other kind of grain you like. You can prepare it plainly, or cook it with stocks or broths or spices to add a depth of flavor.

Step three: Next, you’ll want to find your main protein, which doesn’t have to be meat. This will just be your meal’s main substance. So it could be roasted cauliflower florets baked in a yummy sauce, chicken, tofu, beef, salmon, sausage or whatever you have around. It can be baked, fried, or prepared in your favorite way with the spices and flavors you’re going for.

Step four: A good assortment of veggies will give your grain bowl a lot more substance. Some versatile vegetables that can be roasted, sauteed, steamed or eaten raw with a range of flavors include sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, beans, snap peas, carrots, beets, cabbage, Brussels sprouts or kale. I would pick at least two veggies to go in your bowl, but more is fine too.

Step five: Now it’s time to think about the top of the grain bowl. Dressings or dollops of something tasty on top of your bowl can bring everything together. I really love tzatziki, so my Greek grain bowl needed that, but I could have also made a lemony tahini dressing to drizzle on top. Avocado crema would bring a fresh and light flavor to a grain bowl. A peanut sauce on top of a Thai chicken bowl would be excellent. In addition to sauces and dressings, chopped fresh herbs, cheese, crushed nuts, crispy fried shallots or garlic, crunchy rice noodles, or toasted breadcrumbs will add flavor and more texture to your bowl.

Step six: Add it all together, starting with your grains, protein, veggies and toppings. All of these elements can be made separately and used in other dishes if made ahead of time. It’s a good use of pantry staples and produce that needs to be used up before it goes bad.

Tzatziki

½ cup grated or finely chopped cucumber

1 cup Greek yogurt

Juice of half a lemon

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 garlic clove, grated

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon chopped dill

After chopping or grating cucumbers, roll them up inside a kitchen towel or paper towel, and gently squeeze out excess water.

In a medium bowl, combine the cucumber, yogurt, lemon juice, oil, garlic, salt and dill. Stir until combined and taste. Add more lemon juice and oil for a smoother consistency.

A Greek and Moroccan-inspired grain bowl made with elements of my favorite foods and flavors, photographed on Feb. 3, 2021, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

A Greek and Moroccan-inspired grain bowl made with elements of my favorite foods and flavors, photographed on Feb. 3, 2021, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

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