Bowls have been popular for some time now, and I’m in no hurry to have them go away. Grain bowls, poke bowls, burrito bowls, breakfast bowls, smoothie bowls – I love them all! The one thing they have in common is that they have a lot of components, that’s both a positive and a negative. They take some time to make each part at home, but when the prep work is finished, you’ve got several meals that can be assembled in no time at all and for a fraction of the price as a purchased bowl.
For grain bowls, the key components are: Grain + Veggie + Protein + Dressing + Topping
My favorite grain to use in a bowl is farro. It’s easy to cook and high in protein, thus making a very satisfying vegetarian meal. Other good options are brown rice and quinoa. Cooking the grains in vegetable or chicken stock imparts more flavor, but water works too, just be sure to adequately salt that cooking water. Tossing the cooked grains in a little oil and vinegar is another way to give this important base some flavor.
The veggies I use for this recipe are grilled, a favorite way to cook during the warmer months for corn, peppers, asparagus, zucchini, onions, etc. Roasting is my other favorite way to cook veggies as this method brings out the natural sweetness in broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, root vegetables such as sweet potatoes and carrots. It can also just be a handful of your favorite greens – I’m a big fan of arugula or kale. Tomatoes or thinly sliced radishes also make a nice texture contrast.
Protein can be as simple as grilled or store-bought rotisserie chicken, sauteed shrimp or roasted salmon. I also know that if I use a protein-rich grain such as farro or quinoa, I don’t worry about the need for additional protein – especially since most of my bowls have protein in the form of a crunchy seed or nut on top. Yum!
The dressing for the bowl is key – it can be a simple vinaigrette that is tossed with several of the individual components and then lightly drizzled on top, or it can be a chunky salsa or thick sauce atop everything that winds up getting all mixed together once served. Your bowl, your choice.
And the best part of the bowl just might be the toppings. You can go wild here. And depending on the overall tone of your bowl, you can change the personality or nutritional content just based on the topping you choose. Adding roasted nuts or seeds, chili crunch, sliced avocado, fresh herbs, spicy sriracha or a crunchy raw vegetable are great ways to round out your bowl.
I have many more favorite bowls I’ll be sharing this summer. One of my teenagers is a big fan of acai smoothie bowls and since those can demand a pretty hefty price tag from the local juice bar- and she doesn’t drive- I’m thankful she taught herself how to make delicious smoothie bowls at home.
Southwest Grain Bowl with Roasted Poblano Dressing
This southwest grain bowl is perfect for summer when the corn, tomatoes and peppers are in peak season. It's also easily adapted to whatever grain, veggie or hot pepper you have on hand or is in season. The farro is high in protein making this a satisfying vegetarian meal, but roasted or grilled chicken is a great addition as well.
- 2 tbsp canola oil plus more for brushing
- 2 poblano peppers
- 2 ears of corn, shucked
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp lime juice
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
- 2 green onions, white part only, thinly sliced green parts reserved for bowl
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- Kosher salt
- 2 ears of corn, shucked
- 2 medium zucchini
- 1 red onion
- 1 sweet bell pepper any color
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
- cilantro leaves garnish
- 1½ cups farro pearled or unpearled work, cooking times differ
- 2 cups spinach, arugula, or any mixed greens
- ¼ cup pepitas, toasted optional
- ¼ cup goat cheese or feta, crumbled optional
For the dressing:
Light a grill and brush the grate with canola oil.
Prepare the corn and poblanos for the dressing as well as the corn, zucchini, red onion and bell peppers used in the bowl by brushing with canola oil and sprinkling with salt and pepper. Grill over moderate heat, until all veggies have grill marks and the corn and poblanos are lightly charred all over.
Transfer to a sheet pan to cool slightly. Peel, seed and chop the poblanos. Cut the corn kernels off the cob. Cut all other veggies into bite-sized pieces and set aside to for the grain bowl.
In a blender or mini food processor, combine 2 tbsp of canola oil, olive oil, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, honey, green onion whites, chopped cilantro, poblanos and 1 cup of the corn kernels. Pulse until a chunky dressing forms. Season with salt.
For the grain bowl:
In a medium pot, boil water and cook farro according to the direction on the package. Drain any excess liquid and spread on a sheet pan lined with parchment to cool. This step also prevents the grain from getting gummy and stuck together.
Toast pepitas in a saute pan until lightly golden and begin to pop. Set aside to cool.
Divide farro among 4 bowls. Top with each bowl with grilled vegetables, dressing, pepitas, green onion, and cheese.
This dressing was inspired and adapted from Food & Wine magazine.