THE FOODIE FILES: Spring in a Bowl

By on April 26, 2016

Perk up your grain bowls with healthful, seasonal, yummy ingredients.

LEFT: This farro grain bowl with turmeric tahini sauce and Vertical Harvest tomatoes pairs well with lunch on the deck. TOP RIGHT: Spring greens from the Aspens Market greenhouse on Teton Pass in my favorite bowl from Mountain Dandy. BOTTOM RIGHT:  Build a better grain bowl with crunchy colorful toppings like Quick Pickled Radishes. (ANNIE FENN)

LEFT: This farro grain bowl with turmeric tahini sauce and Vertical Harvest tomatoes pairs well with lunch on the deck. TOP RIGHT: Spring greens from the Aspens Market greenhouse on Teton Pass in my favorite bowl from Mountain Dandy. BOTTOM RIGHT:  Build a better grain bowl with crunchy colorful toppings like Quick Pickled Radishes. (ANNIE FENN)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Hey guys, in case you haven’t noticed, it’s spring. And although I still reach for my favorite elk stew recipe on cold, wet days, my palate is mostly ready to move on with the seasons.

Spring days like today—complete with not-too-windy bike rides, bluebird sightings, fish rising, and sublime corn skiing—are perfect for making a big bowl of crunchy, fresh, spring-like food.

Grain bowls are what I make when I cook for myself. I’m talking about a one-dish meal packed with whole grains, veggies, protein, crunchy toppings, and drizzled with a spiced-up sauce. Leftovers are key to assembling an interesting, yummy bowl, so it pays to have a few key ingredients on hand for quick assembly when hunger strikes.

First I grab my favorite bowl—a ceramic piece by Alex Marshall purchased at Mountain Dandy. It’s my only bowl of a certain perfect grain bowl size, and I bristle when anyone else in the family tries to use it. Then I rummage through the fridge and pantry. With some luck I’ll have a batch of my favorite grains on hand: farro, millet, forbidden rice, barley, or quinoa (which, we all know is a seed, but let’s just pretend it’s a grain).

Why grains? I happen to love the toothsome texture of whole grains, and they make the perfect bed for building a bowl meal. Three servings a day of whole grains are recommended for anyone who wants to prevent dementia. (Raise your hand if you want to fend off Alzheimer’s disease.). And they satisfy my spring hunger like no plain old salad can.

Look for stone ground whole grains (not the factory milled ones) in the bulk section or wherever Bob’s Red Mill products are sold. Cook up a batch on the weekend with enough leftovers to supply your grain bowls all week long. While you’re at it, mix up a few great sauces. The Turmeric Tahini Dressing is a current favorite, especially since Jackson Whole Grocer started carrying fresh, good-quality turmeric in the produce aisle. And the Vietnamese Salad Dressing is an old favorite. The spicy, not-too-sweet sauce is used in my Vietnamese Layered Chicken Salad (recipe on the blog), but it’s great for grain bowls too.

With a fridge stockpiled with grains and sauces, your grain bowls have endless possibilities. Even though we are not exactly swimming in fresh, local produce yet, there are signs of spring trickling into grocery stores. If you see greens from Vertical Harvest or Aspens Market (grown in their own greenhouse up on Teton Pass) be sure to get some. The arugula is especially tender and spicy—perfect for eating raw. My grain bowls usually contain a handful of greens, veggies, and something pickled, like the Quick Pickled Radishes I make myself, or Curried Carrot Pickles from Roots Kitchen and Cannery.

Protein is key for a well-rounded grain bowl. Slices of leftover steak or chicken, a piece of grilled salmon, a few squares of tofu, or a handful of rock shrimp can be cooked up in seconds. With all the other great ingredients in your grain bowl, a small amount of protein goes a long way, making grain bowls good for your budget as well as your health.

A few interesting toppings will complete your fabulous grain bowl. Have you tried sprouted lentils? Or spicy roasted chickpeas? A handful of nuts is always welcome. I especially love hazelnuts, pistachios, almonds, walnuts and toasted pecans. Strips of crispy nori (seaweed sheets) are perfect atop Asian-styled bowls. I’m working on a savory granola made with oats, olive oil, espresso powder, sea salt and just a touch of maple syrup. I envision sprinkling it on breakfast grain bowls made with quinoa and almond milk.

Food just tastes better when eaten from a bowl. It’s true! Psychologists have found that eating from a bowl makes you feel more satisfied and full, especially if that bowl is filled to the brim. That must be why I am partial to my small, deep bowl from Mountain Dandy. It also makes my lunch portable on fickle spring days. I take my grain bowl out onto the deck to eat in the sunshine, then bring it back inside to the sofa when it starts to snow.

Recipes

Quick Pickled Radishes: Warm 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 1/2 cup water, 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt, and 1 tablespoon sugar in a pan until dissolved. Cool and pour over 8-10 sliced radishes in a mason jar. Wait 15 minutes and eat; keeps for up to 3 weeks in the fridge.

Sprouted Red Lentils: Place 1/2 cup lentils in a jar with 2 cups fresh water and cover with cheesecloth. Sprouting takes about a day. Rinse sprouted lentils in fresh water and keep in the fridge for up to one week.

Turmeric Tahini Sauce: Whisk together 1/4 cup tahini, 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 tsp ground or 1 teaspoon freshly grated turmeric, and ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper. Season with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Thin with water to make a thick but pourable sauce. Keeps up to 1 week in the fridge.

Vietnamese Salad Dressing: Whisk 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 1/4 cup fish sauce, 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon hot toasted sesame oil, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon grated ginger, and 2 tablespoons finely diced red onion or shallot. Keeps up to 1 week in the fridge. PJH

After delivering babies and practicing gynecology for 20 years in Jackson, Annie traded her life as a doctor to pursue her other passion: writing about food, health, sustainability and the local food scene. Follow her snippets of mountain life, with recipes, at www.jacksonholefoodie.com and on Instagram @jacksonholefoodie.


About Annie Fenn, MD

After delivering babies and practicing gynecology for 20 years in Jackson, Annie traded her life as a doctor to pursue her other passion: writing about food, health, sustainability and the local food scene. Follow her snippets of mountain life, with recipes, at www.jacksonholefoodie.com and on Instagram @jacksonholefoodie.

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