December is the season of cookies and champagne and lots and lots of cheese. Everyone has their own favorite food traditions this month. I indulge in Bailey’s-spiked hot chocolate with real whipped cream, in two slices of cranberry-vanilla coffee cake on Christmas morning, and in the truly excellent gouda my grandfather sometimes brings to our house. This year we are headed to Munich and Brussels around Christmastime, so I expect there will also be Belgian waffles, glühwein, pretzels, and lots of yummy Belgian beer. I try not to feel guilty about these indulgences – it’s part of the season! – but I do find myself strongly craving vegetables after a few days of heavy meals. Of course, it’s freezing cold in Boston, so the vegetables still have to be warm and comforting, which is where grain bowls save the day.
Grain bowls are a pretty regular feature of our weekly menu. Usually they are a pretty basic affair. Roast brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes are a staple, along with a few pieces of whatever cheese we have sitting in the fridge. There is maybe a dollop of hummus that serves as dressing and a handful of greens. The grain itself is whatever we have on hand – usually farro or rice. These grain bowls are always satisfying, but they aren’t always cohesive – it’s just a mess of stuff I like to eat on one plate. So every once in a while, I like to put a little more thought into how the components of the bowl will go together. Recently, we made a Middle-Eastern inflected grain bowl that came out so well that I thought it was worth sharing here (as well as documenting for myself!).
This grain bowl has a lot of goodness in it. Spicy honey-cinnamon roast sweet potatoes. Cumin-scented roast cauliflower with sticky dates. Crispy brussels sprouts. To pull it together there’s a tangy tahini-yogurt sauce, creamy goat cheese, and jewel-like pomegranate seeds. Each individual component is highly flavorful – the sweet and spicy sweet potatoes in particular are addictive. All together in one bowl each component enhances the others, for a warming, slightly exotic meal. Plus, if you double up on the quantities below you’ll have plenty of leftovers to see you through the week.
Middle-Eastern Grain Bowl with Sweet Potatoes and Cauliflower
A step above your average throw-it-all-together grain bowl. This recipe combines honey-cinnamon-roasted sweet potatoes with cumin-spiced cauliflower and tahini dressing for a Middle-Eastern inflected grain bowl.
Cauliflower recipe is adapted from Dining In.
- Prep Time: 20
- Cook Time: 30
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: 2-3
- 3/4 cup dry farro
For the sweet potatoes:
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into wedges
- 2 TBS olive oil
- 1 TBS honey
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
- sea salt and black pepper to taste
For the cauliflower and brussels sprouts:
- 1 head of cauliflower, washed and cut into florets
- 20-30 brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed, cut in half
- 3 TBS olive oil
- 1 tsp whole cumin seed
- sea salt and black pepper to taste
- 8 dates, halved
For the dressing:
- 3 TBS tahini
- 3 TBS plain Greek yogurt or skyr (the tangier the better!)
- 1 TBS honey
- 1/4 cup lukewarm water
- Juice from 1/2 a lemon
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- Several handfuls fresh baby spinach
- 2 oz. fresh goat cheese, crumbled
- Arils from 1/2 a pomegranate, about 1/2 cup
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. When the water is boiling, add the farro. Cook until al dente, about 20-25 minutes. Drain farro and set aside.
- For the sweet potatoes: whisk the olive oil, honey, cinnamon, cayenne, salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Add the sweet potato wedges and toss to completely coat with the honey-olive oil mixture. Spread the sweet potatoes out on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven. Roast until very tender, about 25-30 minutes.
- For the cauliflower: in the same bowl you used for the sweet potatoes, whisk together the olive oil, cumin seed, salt, and pepper. Add the cauliflower florets and toss, making sure to thoroughly coat the tops of each floret with the olive oil mixture. Add the halved brussels sprouts to the bowl and toss to coat. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until the vegetables are tender in the middle and crispy on the edges, about 30 minutes. About 10 minutes, before the vegetables are done, add the halved dates to the roasting pan so that they roast slightly (they will get a little bit more sticky and caramelized).
- For the bowls: whisk all dressing ingredients together in a medium bowl until smooth, then adjust seasoning to taste. Divide the cooked farro and the baby spinach between two bowls. Top each bowl with several roast sweet potato wedges, pieces of cauliflower and brussels sprouts. Crumble goat cheese on top of the bowls, then sprinkle with pomegranate arils. Drizzle with dressing and serve immediately.
All the cooked ingredients have approximately the same cooking time, meaning if you start the farro at the same time as you put the vegetables in the oven, everything will be ready almost at once.