There’s no denying that grain bowls packed with roasted veggies totally scream fall, but limiting all that deliciousness to one season seems unfair (and a bummer for meal prep TBH, because salad fatigue is real).
To help you transform your classic grain-based recipes for summer, we tapped professional chef and Cook+Chop founder Carla Contreras to share her tips for infusing your lunches with warm-weather vibes.
“I think we get turned off by eating warm foods in the summer because we don’t want to turn on the stove,” Contreras says. “But nothing is more satisfying than a warm bowl of grains topped with fresh seasonal produce. I like to have at least one hot component in my dishes, and a cooked veggie or two plus a warm grain does the trick.”
Of course, to pull off that ultra-satisfying grain bowl you need a high-quality base—like Bob’s Red Mill (Contreras’ pick), the OG source of nutritious whole grains and their tasty gluten-free cousins.
“Bob’s is quality. I have used the products for years,” she says. “My favorite thing about Bob’s is that even if I haven’t tried the grain, there are always instructions on the back of the package—you can’t go wrong!”
Scroll down for 3 fool-proof tips for transforming your fall grain bowls into summer creations.
1. Switch up your sauces
The easiest (and tastiest) way to take your go-to bowls from ho-hum to delish is by surprising your tastebuds with unexpected, summer-inspired sauces.
“Think light and bright—just like your summer wardrobe,” Contreras says. “My summer go-to’s are miso tahini, magic cilantro, and super sumac dressing. They pair perfectly with summer veggies on top of grain bowls and summer salads.”
One of her favorites to pair with a creative sauce is bulgur, the quick-cooking grain that stars in many Middle Eastern recipes. “I grew up eating tabouli salad made with bulgur, parsley, and tomato, and dressed with lemon and olive oil. Now we serve it with grilled lamb kebabs and a garlic yogurt sauce.” Hungry yet?
2. Try them cold
So you’re thinking, “Isn’t a cold veggie bowl basically just a salad?” But hear us out. When prepared correctly, cold grain bowls can pack more flavor than your usual chopped fare—and be a major time-saver.
In fact, one of Contreras’ preferred cold dishes is actually one that’s traditionally served hot. “I love what Italians call farrotto, which is basically a farro risotto—I could eat it all year long!” she says of the chewy, nutty grain. “I am really into how I can eat the leftovers the next day. I pack them with fresh veggies and eat them cold drizzled with olive oil and a simple lemon wedge.” Buon appetito.
3. Go fermented
Because summer colds are a major bummer, score an extra immunity boost from fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and pickles (bonus points if they’re homemade or from the farmer’s market).
“Use these to boost your good gut flora and to add flavor to your bowls,” Contreras says. “They also pair really well with fresh, juicy fruits and vegetables.”
First on her list of grain mix-ins to try is sorghum, which has a mild flavor that lends itself well to mixing with bolder fermented ingredients. Plus, Contreras says it’s the “it grain” of the moment on the chef scene.
“What I love is that you can serve it popped—just like popcorn!” Contreras says. “And unlike popcorn, you can eat the unpopped kernels, which are delicious on top of salads.” Your summer lunches just got way more fun.
Photos: Bob’s Red Mill
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