When I was in college in the 1980s, one of my go-to meals was a bowl of beans and rice, topped with cheddar and salsa. Cheap, filling and nutritious, especially once I learned to go easy on the cheddar and rice and heavy on the beans and salsa.
Nowadays, like many vegetarian cooks, I keep some sort of grain “bowl” in my regular rotation. The grains have gotten far more interesting than rice: There’s farro, millet, barley and more. Noodles count, because it’s ever-easier to find them in whole-grain varieties. After that, the vegetables can change with the seasons, the toppings can include any number of sauces and dressings, and the protein sources can include beans and nuts and cheeses. Best of all, you can pre-cook most, if not all, of the elements.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz is a grain bowl fan, too. Co-author of one of the most comprehensive cookbooks on vegan cooking, 2007’s “Veganomicon,” Moskowitz has a new book out, “Isa Does It,” that might bring even more of her Post-Punk Kitchen personality to the table. In it, she devotes a chapter to such dishes. “My idea of a heavenly dinner is a large bowl of grains, veggies, a little protein, and a killer sauce,” she writes.
Among them, there’s a bowl of soba noodles topped with roasted cauliflower, lentils and miso-tahini dressing. There’s a bowl of brown rice topped with pan-fried tofu, kale and a peanut sauce. And there’s my current favorite, Chimichurri-Pumpkin Bowl: buckwheat noodles topped with roasted pumpkin, a tart green sauce — and, wouldn’t you know it, black beans.
I can’t imagine craving plain old beans and rice again.