Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Quick Weeknight Grain Bowls

Here in New England, we're heading into that season where vegetables are more plentiful and I tend to over-buy them at the grocery store and farm stands because they look so good.  Then, I get them home and I'm never sure what to do with them, aside from my usual assortment of recipes.  I know I want to eat lighter fare and I want weeknight meals to be fast so I can spend more time enjoying the extended daylight, but sometimes, recipes elude me.

One thing I've been a fan of lately is a grain bowl.  Frankly, grain bowls are (or were?) something of a fad in more urban landscapes, but they're not something I've really seen in my neck of the woods.  My general understanding of them is that they involve a bowl of one or more whole grains piled high with all kinds of healthy-looking things so that they're crunchy, savory, sweet, sour...you name it, all at once.  They can be served warm, room-temperature, or even as a refrigerated salad.

This is a version I've been making recently.  It came about partly as a need to use-up some rye berries from a local farm that had been languishing in the back of the pantry, but it'll work just fine with any sturdy grain that cooks in the same amount of time as brown rice.

Brown Rice and Wheat Berry Grain Bowls

Note: This is really more of a method than a recipe.  Feel free to vary the grains or add-ins to your liking.  Just make sure the grains all take about the same time to cook or you'll need to cook them separately.  Grains may be cooked in a regular pan, but will take about 40-45 minutes.

1 cup brown rice, preferably short-grain like "sushi rice"
1/2 cup wheat or rye berries
chicken bullion (optional)
1/2 cup frozen baby peas
various finely chopped raw, blanched, cooked, or pickled vegetables
finely chopped or flaked protein (chicken, fish, etc.)
cooking oil
2 tablespoons of butter (optional - use olive oil if serving cold)
balsamic salad dressing

  1. Rinse the grains and place in the bottom of a pressure cooker.  Add at least 3 cups of water and dissolve bullion in water if using.  Add 1 tablespoon of oil to control foaming.
  2. Cover pressure cooker and bring up to high pressure.  Cook 20 minutes at high pressure.
  3. Quick release the pressure (using cool running water or a quick-release button on your pot).  Strain the grains using a pasta strainer and return them to the pot.  Add butter and peas.  Stir and place the cover back on the pot so peas will warm through and butter melts.
  4. Once the butter has melted and the peas have warmed through, remove grain mixture to a bowl and add vegetables and meats.  Fold gently and add dressing to taste.  If you'll be serving the dish cold, you may need to add more dressing prior to serving as it tends to soak-in and mellow-out.
Pictured Above: short-grained brown rice, rye berries, peas, leftover chicken, English cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and pickled carrots.  Dressed with D.E. Vine Honey Balsamic Dressing.

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