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Bowls

Now feels like an awkward time to publish a cookbook on grain bowls. They’d become a joke in our house a while back and even lamestream food media seems to have recognized that they are over-hyped, at least as a trend. As a way of eating they remain wonderful and essential. But add them to the pile of faded cultural moments along with small plates (or maybe just having small plates explained to you at excruciating length?), “everything is better with bacon” (No, it’s not.), cupcakes, and prohibition-era cocktails. But from the trash heap of food frenzy we get to salvage the remains of what we like and incorporate them into our lives.

So maybe I am wrong and it is a good time for one more book of bowls. This one, Bowls of Plenty: Recipes for Healthy and Delicious Whole Grain Meals, is from Carolynn Carreño, one of my favorite cookbook coauthors, who is finally venturing out on her own. I know her mostly as the woman who collaborates on Nancy Silverton’s wonderful books, though her resume [1] is long. She’s also proven herself to be a great internet pal, and she kindly sent me a copy of the book.

I’ve been cooking from it for a few weeks and have had only success. Carolyn’s grandmother’s oatmeal is delicious, and reheats as well as she promises. You can make a big batch on Sunday and have it for the week. It is made with steel cut oats, a healthy dose of raisins and a sprinkling of salty sunflower seeds. It maybe doesn’t require a recipe, but it is a good reminder that oatmeal can be thoughtful. I’ve become pretty fixated on her Rosemary and Buckwheat Crunch (a sort of granola), and have made that recipe a few times (I am including it below, in case you want to give it a whirl). Buckwheat groats really are nature’s Grapenuts–their particular tender crunch is so satisfying. She serves it with a dark honey (like buckwheat), and sheep’s milk ricotta (I used sheep’s milk yogurt) for a wonderful breakfast.

I was excited to try her recipe for Chinese Chicken Salad and it did not disappoint. You velvet some chicken, crisp some rice and throw together the rest of the ingredients. It is as moreish as the version found in chain restaurants while being more….wholesome? It is a fun thing to make for a Sunday lunch and then have the leftovers to bring to work on Monday. And the lamb meatballs included in her mezze bowl are truly exceptional. I will make those again a lot. The secret is a last minute toss in some pomegranate molasses that gives them a sweet/sour finish. They’re pretty irresistible.

If the last few weeks are any indication, I will be cooking from Bowls of Plenty of the regular. And I look forward to more solo projects from Carreño.

Rosemary-Buckwheat Crunch (from Bowls of Plenty [2])

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

To make the crunch, toss the buckwheat, walnuts, oil, maple syrup, and salt on a baking sheet and spread the ingredients out in an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes, until the buckwheat is barely golden. Remove from the oven and stir in the rosemary, and return the baking sheet to the oven until the buckwheat is golden brown and the rosemary is crisp but not burnt, 5-10 minutes. Remover from the oven and set aside to cool to room temperature and crisp up. Store in an airtight container.