Do-it-yourself grain bowls

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grain bowl
(haoliang / E+ / Getty Images)

By Linda Morel

Grain bowls are the rage in restaurant dining. They are served anywhere from salad bars and cafes to fine restaurants.


But because they are easy to assemble, why not save some money and make grain bowls at home?

But what is a grain bowl? Just as it sounds, this dish is served in a bowl. Although the bowl needs to be deeper than a rimmed soup bowl so ingredients don’t topple over the sides, the portion size is for one person.

A generous amount of grain is nestled at the bottom, such as rice, quinoa or couscous. This is followed by layers of just about any kind of food, including veggies that can be cooked or raw, and a protein, such as meat, fish, tofu, cheese or hard-boiled eggs. Sometimes a sauce is drizzled over the top.

Grain bowls often fall into cuisine themes, such as Israeli, Italian, Tex-Mex or Asian. They are terrific for lunch or casual dinners. Frequently, the ingredients are on hand, and substitutions are always welcome. Using store-bought ingredients, such as hummus, baba ganoush and guacamole, et cetera, is highly recommended to make life easy. Leftovers should definitely land in any grain bowl you make. Let your imagination run wild.

Note: Recipes are for single portions.

Israeli grain bowl

  • 1 cup cooked couscous
  • ¼ cup tomato, diced and seeded
  • ¼ cup cucumber, peeled, diced and seeded
  • ¼ cup radish, sliced thin
  • ¼ cup hummus
  • ¼ cup baba ganoush
  • ¼ cup tzatziki sauce
  • 1 tablespoon red onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon dill, minced
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, minced

Place warm couscous in the bottom of a deep bowl. Arrange on top of it the tomato, cucumber radish, hummus, baba ganoush and tzatziki sauce. Sprinkle on the red onion, dill and parsley. Serve immediately.

Tex-Mex grain bowl

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • ¼ cup canned black beans, drained
  • ⅓ cup guacamole or ½ an avocado, sliced
  • ¼ cup tomato, diced and seeded
  • ¼ cup cucumber, peeled, diced, and seeded
  • ⅛ cup red pepper, seeded and diced
  • ¼ cup cheddar cheese, grated or shredded
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup salsa, or more if desired
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, minced

Place warm quinoa in the bottom of a deep bowl. Arrange on top of it the black beans, guacamole or avocado slices, tomato, cucumber, red pepper, cheddar cheese and sour cream. Drizzle salsa over the top, and sprinkle on cilantro. Serve immediately.

Asian grain bowl

  • 1 cup cooked white or brown rice
  • ⅛ cup canned water chestnuts
  • 6 asparagus, steamed, roasted or grilled
  • ¼ cup sliced mushrooms of any kind, raw or sauteed
  • ¼ cup snow peas, cut in half
  • 1 carrot, sliced matchstick thin
  • ¼ cup alfalfa sprouts, pulled apart to unclump
  • 2 scallions, sliced thin
  • ¾ cup firm tofu, cubed, at room temperature — optional
  • ¾ cup sliced or cubed chicken at room temperature or warm — optional
  • Soy Ginger Salad Dressing (Iron Chef brand is kosher)

Place warm rice in the bottom of a deep bowl. Arrange on top of it water chestnuts, asparagus, mushrooms, snow peas, carrots and alfalfa sprouts. Top that with scallions, plus tofu and/or chicken. Drizzle the soy ginger salad dressing on top. Serve immediately.

Italian grain bowl

  • 1 cup cooked white rice, Aborio, if possible
  • ¾ cup arugula, lightly chopped
  • ¼ cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • ¼ cup cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
  • ⅛ cup kalamata olives, pitted
  • ¼ cup canned artichoke hearts, drained
  • ⅛ cup roasted red peppers in a jar
  • 1 hard-boiled egg, cut in half
  • 6 bocconcini, small mozzarella cheese balls. (Paesanella brand is kosher)
  • 3 slices provolone cheese, cut into strips. (Naturally Good Kosher brand is kosher)
  • 1 tablespoon red onion, chopped

Bottled balsamic vinegar salad dressing, or olive oil and balsamic vinegar for drizzling

Place warm rice in the bottom of a deep bowl. Arrange on top of it the arugula, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, Kalamata olives, artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers. Over that, arrange the hard-boiled egg, mozzarella balls and provolone cheese.

Sprinkle red onion on top and drizzle with bottled balsamic vinegar salad dressing or olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Serve immediately.

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