What’s the best part about grain bowls, you ask? Well, you didn’t actually ask. But if you did, I’d say – the best part is customizability. Hands down.
A grain bowl, for the uninitiated, is a single bowl or dish meal containing smaller amounts of several different foods placed atop a grain base such as quinoa, farro or brown rice. There are endless variations of this theme which include meat or fish, served hot or cold, with all manner of cooked and raw vegetables, legumes, raw or dried fruits, seeds, nuts, cheese, and dressings.
This grain bowl has a base of brown rice topped with sweet potato cubes, wilted spinach, thin red onion slices, fresh juicy blueberries, crunchy pumpkin seeds and a make-your-mouth-water basil vinaigrette. Vibrant color and varied textures galore. I mean, just look at this picture, it’s a thing of beauty.
Let’s talk about the dressing a little more, shall we? The olive oil and apple cider vinegar dressing is absolutely bursting with fresh basil. This is the real, basil-y deal. A whole 1/4 cup of packed basil goes into this dressing. And there is not very much dressing here, people. Just enough to give a good drizzle over the top of the whole grain bowl. This stuff is seriously yummy.
The aroma of fresh, local basil in your kitchen should be intoxicating. The arrival of basil in markets and gardens practically announces the start of summer as far as I am concerned. If you can get your hands on some ultra fresh, fragrant basil, please use it here.
No garden or market? You’re in luck. Thankfully, this time of year, many grocery store produce sections sell entire potted basil plants. This will be the best tasting basil in the store. Buy this instead of the pale (in comparison) green leaves in the plastic mini clamshell if possible.
Regardless of where your basil came from, this is a hearty meal. It’s fair game for breakfast served warm and topped with a runny egg . To do this, I suggest preparing all ingredients ahead of time. Store the onion, blueberries and pumpkin seeds separately from the cooked ingredients. This will allow the cooked ingredients to be reheated selectively and minimize morning prep time. After heating, continue with assembly as instructed in the recipe below with the addition of the aforementioned runny egg if this sort of thing floats your boat.
Headed back to the office? Going on a picnic? Returning to school? Throw this one dish meal into a food storage container and away you go! Not only can you choose which ingredients go in your grain bowl, you can choose what time of day to eat it, too. Customizable to your tastes. Customizable to your day.
Brown Rice Grain Bowl with Basil Dressing
Brown Rice Grain Bowl
- 1 cup brown rice, dry I used brown basmati rice
- 1 3/4 cup water or quantity recommended in the instructions on your package of rice
- 4 cups sweet potato, peeled and cut in 1/2 to 3/4" cubes
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 sprinkle salt
- 1 handful spinach
- 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup blueberries
- 1 Tbsp pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup basil, lightly packed
- 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 pinch pepper
- 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- In medium size sauce pan, cook rice according to instructions on package. For my rice, I boiled the water. Then added the rice, covered with the lid, and reduced the heat to low. Rice took about 40 minutes to cook.
- While rice is cooking, cook sweet potatoes in a large skillet. Put skillet on cooktop over medium-high heat. Heat oil until shimmering, then add sweet potatoes and a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to medium. Stir occasionally. Cook until tender and lightly browning on edges. Heat may need to be adjusted depending on your cooktop. Rice and sweet potatoes finish cooking about the same time. Remove from heat when cooked.
- Add spinach to pan with sweet potatoes, stir lightly to combine. Spinach will wilt from residual heat in the pan, especially if using enameled cast iron as I did.
- Using rice as the base, assemble the grain bowl in individual bowls or dishes. Toppings can be scattered over the top (as pictured) or clustered into little sections. Top rice with sweet potato and spinach mixture, sliced red onion, blueberries and pumpkin seeds.
- To make the dressing, add all dressing ingredients in a blender. Blend until basil leaves are no longer intact, a couple minutes depending on your blender. Scape down sides as needed. Dressing will be green and homogenous. Drizzle dressing over top of grain bowl. Serve right away or refrigerate and enjoy later cold.