There’s something very special about a well-made, beautifully presented grain bowl. It makes you hungry just looking at it. As a busy working mom and a self-proclaimed food prep pro, it’s great to be able to prepare my bowl ingredients ahead of time. Then, it’s easy to just throw together different bowls for dinner throughout the week. In addition to being a one-bowl meal that will fill you up, nourish you, and minimize clean-up time, a fun part about grain bowls is that the creative options are literally endless! There are a few things I look for in a solid savory bowl, and these Farro Bowls with Grilled Chicken, Roasted Charred Vegetables, and a Garlic-Tahini Drizzle check every single box.
Here is my list of top 10 musts when creating the ultimate bowl:
- A pillowy, hardy base: a grain, zucchini noodles, or tofu noodles are great options
- Go vegetable heavy: choose at least two vegetables (but the more the merrier IMO!)
- A protein: meat, fish, and tofu are great options
- Fresh herbs always
- Your dream version of a crouton on top: options include toasted nuts, seeds, crispy chickpeas, toasted coconut flakes, crumbled bacon, or roasted polenta chunks
- Bring it all together by topping it off with a BOMB sauce or dressing
- A functional, colorful garnish: ideas include lemon or lime wedges, fresh herb sprigs or a variety of extra chopped herbs, bonus dressing tucked into the side of your bowl in a beautiful little dish, toasted sesame seeds, chili flakes, or a soft boiled or fried egg
- Satisfy all those taste buds: salty, sweet, bitter, acidic, umami, cool, hot
- Different textures: give it some chew, some crunch, some pop, and some mash
- Food Rainbow: even if it’s a big mash-up in 5 minutes, presenting an IG worthy bowl with all the colors is a must. Read on to learn why!
Now, let’s take this list and talk about this recipe: Farro Bowls with Grilled Chicken, Roasted Charred Vegetables, and a Garlic-Tahini Drizzle
CHOOSE A BASE
We all know brown rice, quinoa, and barley. But you know who needs way more love in 2021? Farro. I recently got into farro and can’t believe what I’ve been missing. If someone had told me that it resembles the taste of warm, freshly baked bread, I would’ve hopped on board a long time ago! With this recipe, I am urging you all not to make the same mistake as me. Don’t underestimate the deliciousness of this versatile, hardy little powerhouse. In addition to its comforting nutty and toasty flavor and chewy texture, farro is also packed with fiber, iron, protein, and magnesium. In this recipe, we’re boiling farro in salted water, and it’s going to be the absolute perfect base for our bowls.
GO VEGETABLE HEAVY
I am deeply passionate about my veggies. In addition to being delicious, naturally beautiful, and incredibly versatile, vegetables are filling and provide such an abundance of nutrients for our minds and bodies. They also add such a great pop of color to any bowl. You can’t have the ultimate food rainbow without some vegetables added to the mix. For this bowl, I prepare my vegetables two ways. The acorn squash and broccoli florets go into the oven at the same temperature, for the same amount of time, and I give them each a mix halfway through the cooking time.
Acorn squash is amazing. It has fiber, potassium, and magnesium, and when cut into wedges like in this recipe, each side gets the perfect roast, giving every single bite a nutty, toasty flavor and chewy, sticky texture. Charred broccoli has fast become one of my absolute favorite things on earth to eat. (*Hot tip – give your babies the broccoli charred and they will DEVOUR it!) It’s so deeply rich in flavor, with this perfect balance of savory crunch and toasty crisp. It’s just beyond! If french fries and broccoli had a baby, it would be this charred broccoli. This veggie combo gives you a nice mix of sweet, salty, chewy, and crispy.
CHOOSE YOUR PROTEIN
The juicy grilled chicken in this bowl is the perfect complement to the toasty vegetables, creamy feta, and plump pomegranate seeds. If you don’t eat meat, no worries! Simply replace this protein option with grilled or baked salmon, or steamed or sautéed tofu. It will be equally delicious and just as loaded with flavor and texture.
FRESH HERBS ALWAYS
For a really long time, fresh herbs, especially parsley, were an afterthought; a garnish or sprig that was plopped or sprinkled over the top of a dish right before serving, and removed or pushed aside upon eating.
Luckily this is no longer the case, and I’m personally so thankful for this shift. Fresh herbs are an AMAZING addition to all kinds of dishes! Have you ever added mint to your salad? Rosemary to your carrots? Sage to your brown butter?! From both a visual and flavor perspective, these once underestimated little power plants make everything NEXT level. Bonus: they offer a lot of centuries-proven health and medicinal benefits, as well. Invite herbs into your kitchen and play with different options to see what you like and how you enjoy them most.
The fresh parsley added to this bowl isn’t just about a pretty little sprinkle on top. Yes, it’s gorgeous and bright, but it also adds an earthy, spicy, crisp to the entire meal. TBH, I’m being conservative here. I encourage you to double or even triple the parsley here and maybe even some cilantro if you have it, too. It will just continue to elevate every single bite.
BRING IT ALL TOGETHER WITH A DRESSING OR SAUCE
This Garlic-Tahini Dressing is the pièce de résistance of…pretty much every savory dish I cook right now. So much so that I’ve factored having some leftover into this recipe, so that you’ll have it later on for another bowl, meat dishes, toasts, salads, or sandwiches. It’s nutty, toasty, creamy, and smooth, and packs a just-pungent-enough garlicky punch. You’re welcome in advance! A balanced, creamy, neutral dressing like this can tie together the versatility of a meal where all different types of flavors and textures come into play.
SATISFY THOSE TASTE BUDS
Food is a sensory experience, and flavor balance is an art. Your tongue can detect sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. By bringing sweetness, saltiness, acidity, bitterness, and fattiness together in these bowls, you end up with this amazingly composed flavor profile, making each bite unique and bursting with a new experience with flavors and textures. You have the chewy farro, the sweet squash, the rich broccoli, the juiciness and umami of the chicken, the tangy feta and pomegranate seeds, the crisp herbs, and then, to top it all of, a garlicky, nutty, creamy drizzle. Add some acidity with a bit of freshly squeezed lemon over your final product, and your taste buds are going to be dancing!
ADD DIFFERENT TEXTURES
Can you tell yet that flavor and texture play very important roles in my life? Adding texture is like giving your dish its own unique identity and personality. Little textural touches go a long way in elevating a recipe because they make each bite special and a little bit more fun to experience. By adding tangy crumbled feta, plump and juicy pomegranate seeds, and crispy chili flakes to this bowl, you’re able to further draw out the rest of those flavors from your farro, vegetables, and chicken, too. What ultimately happens is that the ingredients all come together in this delicious harmony that you wouldn’t be able to capture without the gift of texture.
TASTE THE FOOD RAINBOW
There are two reasons why I’m deeply committed to creating and sharing colorful, flavorful, nutritious and delicious recipes. The first is about nourishment and glowing from the inside out, and the second is visual.
Naturally colorful foods are generally fresh foods, like fruits and vegetables. Look at this bowl. The golden yellow squash, bright pomegranate seeds, vibrant parsley, and rich broccoli florets pop like a dense, rich rainbow. The brighter, more vibrant the food, the more your skin, hair, and nails will glow, grow, and shine, and the more balanced and strong your heart, stomach, mind, and soul will feel.
I’m sure you’ve probably heard the saying, “We eat with our eyes.” The presentation and aesthetic of a meal are just as important as the way it tastes. We see, smell, and judge our food before we ever take a bite, and that first glance sets a tone that triggers the rest of our senses. So you see, incorporating colorful foods into your life can inspire your mind, body, soul, and creativity!
These bowls are the perfect opportunity for sharing a beautiful, bright, inviting meal that is also full of healthy and energizing nutrients. Food should be comforting, welcoming, and warm to the soul. This recipe is just that.
Farro Bowls with Grilled Chicken, Roasted Charred Vegetables, and a Garlic-Tahini Drizzle
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Yield: 2 Servings, 1 Cup Garlic-Tahini Dressing
For the Bowls
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups farro, about 10 ounces
1 small acorn squash, about 1 pound
3 cups broccoli florets, about 10 ounces
8 ounces boneless chicken breast
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon pomegranate seeds (alternative: dried cranberries)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Chili flakes (optional)
2-4 Lemon wedges for serving
For the Garlic-Tahini Dressing
½ cup tahini
½ cup water
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat oven to 375°
Char Your Brocc & Roast Your Squash
- Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
- Toss the broccoli florets in 3 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Pour into a single layer on a sheet pan. Don’t overcrowd the pan.
- Cut the stem off of the acorn squash, and then cut the squash in half and scoop the seeds out.
- Using a pastry brush or your hands, coat the acorn squash wedges with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Give it a nice gentle massage! Then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Flesh side down, cut each half into ¾ inch wide wedges.
- Place the wedges on their sides on a second sheet pan.
- Place both pans in the oven and bake for 40 minutes, tossing the florets and flipping the squash wedges halfway through.
- Remove and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before handling.
Cook the Farro
- Add the farro to a pot of salted water. Bring to a rolling boil. Reduce to a simmer for 25-30 minutes. Taste test: it should be chewy, yet tender. That’s how you know it’s done!
- Drain and set aside.
Grill the Chicken
- Toss your chicken in a bowl to coat with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cook on a grill or grill pan over medium heat for 5 minutes on each side (if your chicken is thin, 4 minutes per side, and if it’s thicker, 6-7 minutes per side).
- Allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes, and then slice into strips. Place aside.
Make the Garlic-Tahini Dressing
- Add all ingredients to a blender, and blend until smooth. Stop to scrape the sides of the blender with a spatula as needed. Pour into a mason jar to store, since this will be a little more than enough for leftovers.
Assemble the Bowls
- Place a large scoop of farro at the base of your bowl.
- Top the farro with the acorn squash wedges, charred broccoli, and grilled chicken strips.
- Sprinkle with the feta cheese, pomegranate seeds, fresh parsley, and chili flakes if you want to add some heat.
- Drizzle with Garlic-Tahini Dressing or serve it on the side.
- Garnish with lemon wedges.