There’s just something about eating a meal out of a favorite bowl. The way you can cradle it in your hand while digging up a big, hearty scoop. How its shape lends itself to layering ingredients, creating pockets of flavors waiting to be discovered.
And while you might normally get your bowl fix from that fancy fast-casual place, it’s totally doable at home too, especially with a few shortcuts. Plus, there will be no one around to charge you extra for avocado.
So let’s get into the nitty gritty of how to create the perfect grain bowl at home. Once you’ve got the hang of things, you might just find yourself making it on the regular for lunch, dinner, and beyond.
Make It Rain Grains
Grains are like the bass drum of the bowl: they’re there to keep the other ingredients on track, melding into the background. Since they don’t have any strong flavors of their own, you really can go with whatever you feel like and not worry about how they’ll mesh with the other items. This is a great opportunity to use up any leftovers or something that’s been hanging out in your pantry. Brown rice is the most popular go-to, but there’s really no limit to what you can try: farro, quinoa, fonio, bulgur, couscous are all great, just to name a few. Simply steam them in boiling water or hot broth and your base is ready.
When we’re in a crunch, one of our favorite hacks is to go to one of the ready-to-eat starches from FreshDirect. Just spread them out along the base of your bowl and you’re ready for the next step.
Time To Veg Out
This is where things get interesting. The vegetables should dominate your bowl, taking up at least half of the area on top of the grains. You’ll want to have at least two different items to provide enough textural and flavor variety, but there’s really no limit to how many you can choose. It helps to have a general theme in mind to help you choose items that’ll work well together—say, a winter bowl with Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, and other roasted, cold-weather veg or something Tex-Mex that features avocado, tomato, and corn. If you’re using salad greens, limit them to a small pocket of the bowl (you don’t want it to turn into a salad, after all). Then add on sectioned-out heaps of your other vegetables. We like to keep each item in its own section and choose between mixing the bowl up or picking out flavors individually as we’re eating.
Pick Your Protein
Whether it’s something meaty or totally plant-based, a protein is a must-have in your bowl to give it the fortifying kick that’ll power you through your day. Last night’s extras will always do the trick here: this is the perfect opportunity to slice up some extra steak, shred a bit of rotisserie chicken, or crumble up leftover tofu or veggie sausage. Hearty fish like salmon, cooked shrimp, bacon, charcuterie, poached or hard-boiled eggs, and beans are also fair game. You’ll want to keep in mind the vegetables you’ll be adding and pick something complementary—for example, shrimp is a natural match for fresh, mild-flavored produce like spring mix lettuce or cherry tomatoes, but tends to get overwhelmed by strongly-flavored items like cooked eggplant or collard greens. And while using a protein that’s coated in a sauce or marinade is perfectly OK, you might want to stick with very simply seasoned items and let the dressing (more on this later) bring most of the flavor and tie all the individual components together. Nestle your protein in the bowl’s corner, then move on to the fixings.
Top It Off
It’s in the little extra things that your bowl begins to take on personality. This is where you can add interesting textures, especially crunchy ones, or add intriguing flavors. You can really ransack your cabinets and fridge for options here: grain bowls are perfect for using up that jar of olives or bag of nuts in the back of your cabinet. We recommend choosing at least one garnish that brings a strong flavor accent, like dried fruit, salsa, chopped herbs, crumbled or shredded cheese, or pickles, and at least one garnish that brings additional crunch—think seeds, nuts, and fried onions. You could also try a dip, like hummus or baba ganoush, for more of a hearty, creamy touch, or add on a deli salad like egg salad or a slaw.
Get Dressed Up
The sauce you use to finish your bowl will tie the whole thing together. You don’t want to skip this step because this is where you get the flavor and bring in some moistness. A dressing can be as simple as a squeeze of sriracha or as elaborate as a homemade vinaigrette. Simply choose one that harmonizes with the rest of your ingredients. We’re especially fans of the fresh sauces from Haven’s Kitchen in this situation, which never fail to add excitement to anything they touch.
Not in the mood to put something together? We’ve got you covered with fresh salads and grain bowls from the FreshDirect kitchen.