No, I don’t feel finished with late summer tomatoes and leafy greens. I think it’s on account of winter hurtling toward us. And while I do love a season change, I don’t think I’m ready for the kind of winter this one promises to be.
I hope everyone enjoyed a safe and healthy holiday, and that you had your fill of all the perennial favorites. I wager this is a Thanksgiving we don’t soon forget. For many reasons. Not the least of which may have been several key guests missing from your feasting table per recent guidelines.
At the time of writing, I am only expecting our nuclear foursome for the big day, all of whom have RSVP’d a cautiously optimistic “Yes” from their respective WFH stations scattered around the house. Small group this year, which of course means double the eats because I do not plan to accommodate the current standard by decreasing the amount of sides we fix, especially when it comes to pumpkin anything (read: pie).
In any case, I hope you found a few things to be thankful for in this strange and fractious year, because really, there are a few. Too much leftover pie, for starters.
And we’re off to the races: the bedlam that tails the most glorious holiday in the galaxy by rounding out the year and leaving us in an exhausted (and I dread to say, bloated), slump of defeat. Black Friday aside, chaos and pandemonium ensue for a solid month starting now. And so do, at least for some of us, downright frightful food choices. Quiet there in the back, please. We know who we are. Even though it looks like none of us will be fa-la-la-ing in large groups this season, hovered around cousin Frida’s slick-shiny, pineapple-studded ham wedged in amid a folding table crammed full of cheesy dips, butter cookies and pigs-in-a-blanket, we might still be in peril of certain dietary ruin, like Groundhog Day, year after year, as we glimpse our future selves lurking around the dimly lit corner of 2021.
It ain’t pretty.
Accordingly, I invite you to get ahead of this cunning trap of overindulging, and employ the grain bowl. Don’t groan just yet. Like an edible reset button and the food equivalent of Dry January (but, might I add, quite a bit less orchestrated for failure), it is the unsung hero of turbo-autopilot holiday consumption, offering clemency and absolution from our food-related transgressions. Oh, and it just happens to be super-delicious, boasting oceans of variety.
As long as you have a fridge, a few minutes at the start of the week, and some pantry staples, the rest is easy as, well, pie! Think of it more as a prompt than a recipe, per se. Start by cooking a pot of the whole grain of your choice: brown rice, quinoa, farro, couscous or any combination you like. Boil a few eggs (using one per bowl is my preference), make a quick, citrusy salad dressing (recipe follows), and poach a chicken breast (or just buy a cooked rotisserie chicken). Layer those components together (storing the extras for another day), and then get creative. I like to add chickpeas, avocado, chopped raw cabbage, pumpkin seeds, a sprinkle of dried fruit, cilantro or other herbs, crumbled bacon if I have it, pistachios and a salty cheese, like feta. It also allows for clever use of leftovers, like roasted squash, cauliflower, and broccoli. The options are limitless!
Save the dressing to drizzle over top once everything is assembled. Fresh, crisp and crunchy, veg-filled and bulked up with grain, it is a hug in a bowl, that says, “I’m here for you, friend. You’ve got this.” And so wholly sustaining is this splendid creation, it will likely keep you from stalking the fridge, searching for the leftover challah bread stuffing at 9 p.m., after a long night of on-line shopping.
So, enjoy the spoils of the season! Eat the cookies! Drink the fizzy cocktail! Make the salted caramel toffee to have with your morning coffee! By all means, celebrate!! Just relax, and know that the grain bowl is your ally, not your parole officer.
Keep well, and keep on cooking.
•1 large shallot, diced fine
•2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
•1 tablespoon lemon juice
•1 tablespoon orange juice
•¾ cup olive oil
•Combine the shallot, vinegar and citrus juice in a small bowl. Add a big pinch of kosher salt and let stand to macerate for about 5 minutes. Whisk in olive oil until emulsified. Taste for seasoning.
Additions if you’re feeling extra: lemon zest, orange zest, crushed red pepper, tender herbs.