Friday, October 16, 2015

Grain Bowls with Halloumi Cheese

Last Year's Post: Seared Scallops with Herb-Butter Sauce
Two Years Ago:  Rustic Greens and Potato Pie

I recently came across an article in Bon Appetit about how to make the best grain bowls.  It started by discussing the grains and suggested using a combo such as black rice with red quinoa.  Hmm, I thought, I just happen to have both.  It went on to suggest greens such as kale or napa cabbage (I just happened to have a half head of napa cabbage sitting in the refrigerator).  Another suggestion to add was winter squash with Gochujang (who has Gochujang hanging around?  me!).  I felt like it was a sign that I needed to make this right now - all I needed was some butternut squash and halloumi.  Now, I realize that most normal people will not have all those ingredients but don't worry, there are many other options listed below.

As for halloumi, I've been wanting to try it for a while.  It's a cheese with a high melting point so you can grill or pan-fry it for a nice brown crispy exterior without it melting all over.  I remembered seeing some at the natural foods store but wanted to see if my neighborhood Safeway carried it since I was there anyway.  While I was checking out the cheese case I asked The Lawyer to talk to the deli employee to see if she knew whether they carried it.  The following conversation is absolutely true:

Me:  "Could you ask to see if they carry halloumi?"
The Lawyer:  "Do you carry hallooni?"
Me:  "Halloumi"
The Lawyer:  "Hallooni"
Deli Employee:  "Hallooni?"
Me:  "Halloumi cheese"
Deli Employee to 2nd Deli Employee:  "Do we carry hallooni?"
2nd Deli Employee:  "Hoonoony?"
Me:  "Never mind".  (Sigh.)

Off to the natural foods store.  Halloumi is a white cheese typically is sold in a block and packaged in plastic.  It may also be referred to as "grilling cheese".  You can find it in natural food stores, cheese shops, and some high-end grocery stores.  It has a mild taste similar to mozzarella and is not as salty as feta.

Grain bowls are fun and easy to customize with different grains, vegetables, greens and vinaigrettes.  I loved the idea of the spicy, creamy butternut squash with crunchy cabbage and halloumi cheese, but you could go with broccoli, tomatoes and kale, for example.  If you don't feel like trying halloumi, substitute feta or mozzarella or Jack cheese.  And use any one or more grains that you happen to have on hand, and any combination of nuts and seeds.  The maple mustard dressing goes particularly well with spicy foods and bitter greens such as kale, but you could also use a bottled balsamic vinaigrette.

We loved the butternut squash with Gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste) but it will likely require a trip to your local Asian market.  You could substitute a little hot sauce, harissa or sriracha and get much the same effect, or leave it out entirely and just roast the squash with a little olive oil, salt and pepper if you don't want the heat.  Carrots or sweet potatoes could also substitute for the squash.

There is so much going on here in terms of flavor and texture between the grains, nuts and seeds, squash, cabbage, cheese and vinaigrette that you'll never notice the meal is both vegetarian and good for you.  Although there are a number of ingredients and steps, note that the grains, squash and vinaigrette can all be made in advance.  The remaining prep and toasting the seeds, nuts and cheese takes just minutes so this actually could be a great weekday dinner with a little advance planning.

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Grain Bowls with Halloumi Cheese
Serves 4

Note:  If you don’t want to make the Gochujang Squash recipe, just roast squash according to the directions and either eliminate the heat or substitute a small amount of hot sauce, harissa or sriracha

1 1/3 cups uncooked grains such a quinoa, rice, farro, or bulgur, or a mix (I used 50/50 red quinoa and black rice)
2 cups peeled butternut squash, cut into bite-sized pieces and roasted (see following recipe)
Maple Mustard vinaigrette (see following recipe) or bottled balsamic vinaigrette
2 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage or Tuscan kale
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
½ cup mixed seeds and small nuts (I used sesame, poppy, caraway, fennel and sunflower seeds plus pine nuts)
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 (1/4-inch) slices of Halloumi cheese
Micro-greens, for garnish (optional)

Make ahead:  cook grains according to package directions and cool.  Cook squash according to directions (below) and cool.  Make maple mustard vinaigrette and refrigerate.

Shortly before serving, slice the cabbage or kale and put in a medium bowl with the apple cider vinegar.  With your hands, gently squeeze the cabbage or kale with the vinegar – this will soften it slightly.

Heat the olive oil in a medium non-stick skillet and add the seeds and nuts.  Toast, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.  Remove the seeds and nuts from the skillet with a slotted spoon but do not drain the remaining olive oil.

Toast the Halloumi slices in the remaining oil over medium heat until golden on one side, then remove to cool.

To assemble, divide grains between four shallow bowls.  Top with cabbage, squash, seeds and nuts, two slices of cheese per bowl, and micro-greens.  Drizzle with vinaigrette and serve.

Gochujang Roasted Squash
1 teaspoon Gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
2 cups peeled butternut squash, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 teaspooons minced chives
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Whisk Gochujang, soy sauce, oil, and sesame seeds in a medium bowl.  Add squash and toss to coat.  Spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes until tender and browned on the edges.  Let cool; top with chives and salt.

Maple Mustard Vinaigrette
1/2 c walnut oil or canola oil
1/4 c maple syrup
1/4 c cider vinegar
2 T mustard
1 T soy sauce
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper

Whisk all vinaigrette ingredients together in a small bowl and refrigerate, covered, for up to two weeks.

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