by Sarah Buckman, Common Ground Food Co-op
As cooling weather falls upon us each October in Champaign-Urbana, I am always stunned by the bounty of local foods harvested this month. October straddles the last of summery heat-loving foods like our favorite nightshades all the while welcoming the harvest of cool-loving salad mixes, brassicas, and storage crops that sweeten with the brisk temperatures. It’s hard to describe the bittersweet feeling I have when eating the season’s first apple while hoarding the last of the tomatoes in the same sitting. I tend to view October has the last hurrah before settling into hibernation mode. This month requires so much from farmers where they balance collecting the foods coming out of the ground, ensuring the harvest gets to the customers, and also hoping for a high sales period that will help cushion the slower winter months and financially bolster the following spring season. I get wide-eyed when I try to fathom how difficult this particular season has been for folks farming through COVID. One positive thing we can do as a show of camaraderie is to feature as many local foods in our home-cooked meals. Below, I share with you how you can make delicious grain bowl meals to incorporate all of the local foods that are sitting in your fridge.
Grain bowls are super delicious, versatile well-balanced meals that can be built based on whatever you have in the fridge with whatever flavors you are craving. Just mix and match! All you need is veggies, greens, a grain, a protein, and a sauce or dressing! Want a Mediterranean grain bowl with olives, feta, peppers, lemon chicken, bulgur, and tahini dressing? Or a sushi grain bowl with salmon, sticky rice, nori, green onions, carrots, radishes, and a teriyaki-soy sauce? What about one with rice, beans, cabbage, avocado, skirt steak, cilantro, and salad mix? I’ve created two hyper-local grain bowls recipes to get you started including a Local Butternut Squash Pecan Goat Cheese Wild Rice Grain Bowl and a Local Kielbasa Carrot Celery Wheatberry Grain Bowl. They both are so tasty and comforting to eat when the nights are getting longer, plus they are almost entirely local!
Curious how I came up with my recipes? Try using my Fool-proof Grain Bowl Builder you can build you own bowl using your favorite ingredients:
PROTEIN (CHOOSE 1)
VEGETABLES (CHOOSE 3-4)
- Bell Pepper
- Sweet Potatoes
- Tokyo Bekana
- Collard Greens
- Salad Greens
FRESH HERBS (CHOOSE 1-2)
- Other spice blend
GRAIN (CHOOSE 1)
- Wild Rice
LEGUME (OPTIONAL CHOOSE 1)
- Black Beans
- Pinto Beans
- White Beans
- Green Lentils
- French Lentils
SAUCE (CHOOSE 1)
- Simple Olive Oil & Vinegar
- Teriyaki Sauce
- Tahini Sauce
- Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Ranch Dressing
- Herb Aioli
- Cranberry Sauce
- BBQ Sauce
- Peanut Satay Sauce
WHAT YOU NEED FOR LOCAL BUTTERNUT SQUASH PECAN GOAT CHEESE WILD RICE GRAIN BOWL:
1 cup of native-harvested wild rice or regional wild rice from the Great Lakes
1T. Better than Bouillon concentrated broth paste or bouillon cubes
1 container local chevre goat cheese from Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery
1 local and organic butternut squash from Blue Moon Farm
2 local and organic leeks from PrairiErth Farm
2 sprigs local thyme from Green Pantry Nursery
Local and organic salad greens from Blue Moon Farm
Local rainbow microgreens from Living Water Farms
1/8 cup regional bulk pecans from Voss
3-4 T. Olive oil or any preferred oil
1) Measure 1 cup of wild rice and rinse thoroughly in warm water through a sieve until cleaned. In a small sauce pan, add wild rice, bouillon, and 3 cups of water. Bring to boil over high heat then add a lid and reduce the temperature to a low simmer for about 20 minutes or until the wild rice is cooked but grains are not yet split open.
2) Preheat oven to 400F and using a large chef’s knife cut off the top and bottom of the butternut squash. Slice the butternut down the middle lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Oil the halves lightly with olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh thyme and place on a baking sheet with parchment paper. You can face them flesh down or skin side down – either way it will turn out well. TIP #1: You can pinch the stem of the thyme sprig and use your other hand to remove the small thyme leaves by tightly sliding up the sprig to remove them all at once. TIP#2: If you are weary of slicing up the squash with your knife, you can also roast it whole, it just might take a tad longer. Cook in oven for 20-30 minutes or until a fork can easily slide into the flesh. Remove from oven and let slightly cool.
3) While the squash and rice is cooking, it’s time to work on cooking the leeks. Thoroughly wash the leeks and then slice the leeks in half lengthwise. Slice thinly width-wise and keep chopping to include a decent portion of the greens. You can eat the green part of the leeks as well as the white section, so don’t waste it because it tastes delicious sautéed. Using a tab of butter or olive oil, cook the leeks on high until they start to caramelize, adding a little salt and pepper and let them loose their liquid.
4) Once everything is fully cooked, plate up your salad greens, wild rice, diced up butternut squash (with or without skin), dollops of goat cheese, and garnish with microgreens and pecans. Drizzle with a little olive oil and serve!
WHAT YOU NEED FOR LOCAL KIELBASA CARROT CELERY WHEATBERRY GRAIN BOWL:
Triple S Farms Kielbasa Sausage
local wheatberries from Hazzard Free Farm
local and organic celery from PrairiErth Farm
local and organic carrot from PrairiErth Farm
local and organic bell pepper from PrairiErth Farm
local and organic garlic from Blue Moon Farm
local and organic yellow onion from Blue Moon Farm
local and organic boiled red beets from Blue Moon Farm
1 T. salted butter
local rosemary from Green Pantry Nursery
salt and pepper to taste
veggie stock or water
1) Rinse wheatberries in a sieve with cold water.
2) Chop up some celery leaves from the celery stalk and add them to a medium sauce pan with 1 cup of wheatberries, 1/2 tsp salt, a sprig of rosemary, and fill the pan with veggie stock or water until the liquid covers about 2 inches over the wheatberries. Cook on high heat until it comes out a boil then add a lid and simmer for about 40-50 minutes or until wheatberries are tender.
3) While wheatberries are cooking, it’s time to slice up the carrots, dice the celery, onion, bell pepper, and mince the garlic. Slice the kielbasa in 1/4 inch slices on a slight angle. TIP: If you are vegetarian, you can slice up your favorite seitan sausage.
4) Heat up a skillet with a tablespoon of butter on high heat and start to sautée the garlic and onion. Follow up with the denser vegetables like the carrot and then add the bell pepper and celery until everything is softened. Should take about 10-15 minutes. You can add a pinch salt to draw out liquid from the vegetables or you can hold off and just use the kielbasa as the salty component. Add the kielbasa and make sure to cook on high heat so you can slightly brown the sides of the sausage.
5) Once everything is ready, build your grain bowl by adding the local mixed salad greens, wheatberries, veggies and kielbasa, sliced boiled beets, and eat as is or add a touch of apple cider vinegar and olive oil. Enjoy!
Hope this gives you inspiration for building your own delicious and nutrient dense grain bowl. Feel free to use the Grain Bowl Builder for future times when you don’t know what to make for dinner. Remember to support your local farmers now during COVID, and always! See you next time.