When I was in college in the 1980s, one of my go-to meals was a bowl of beans and rice, topped with cheddar and salsa. Cheap, filling and nutritious, especially once I learned to go easy on the cheddar and rice and heavy on the beans and salsa.
Nowadays, like many vegetarian cooks, I keep some sort of grain "bowl" in my regular rotation. The grains have gotten far more interesting than rice: There's farro, millet, barley and more. Noodles count, because it's ever-easier to find them in whole-grain varieties. After that, the vegetables can change with the seasons, the toppings can include any number of sauces and dressings, and the protein sources can include beans and nuts and cheeses. Best of all, you can pre-cook most, if not all, of the elements.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz is a grain bowl fan, too. Co-author of one of the most comprehensive cookbooks on vegan cooking, 2007's "Veganomicon," Moskowitz has a new book out, "Isa Does It," that might bring even more of her Post-Punk Kitchen personality to the table. In it, she devotes a chapter to such dishes. "My idea of a heavenly dinner is a large bowl of grains, veggies, a little protein, and a killer sauce," she writes.
Among them, there's a bowl of soba noodles topped with roasted cauliflower, lentils and miso-tahini dressing. There's a bowl of brown rice topped with pan-fried tofu, kale and a peanut sauce. And there's my current favorite, Chimichurri-Pumpkin Bowl: buckwheat noodles topped with roasted pumpkin, a tart green sauce — and, wouldn't you know it, black beans.
I can't imagine craving plain old beans and rice again.
4 to 6 servings
For a shoulder-season vegetable dish, you can't do better than fall pumpkin combined with tart chimichurri, the Argentine sauce usually slathered over steaks.
MAKE AHEAD: The pumpkin can be roasted, then refrigerated for up to 1 week; warm it in a small skillet over medium heat or in the microwave before serving. The chimichurri can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks; let it come to room temperature before tossing with the just-cooked soba noodles. Adapted from "Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week," by Isa Chandra Moskowitz (Little, Brown and Co., 2013).
One 3-pound sugar or pie pumpkin , sliced in half and seeded
2 cloves garlic, smashed
3/4 cup raw hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas), toasted (see NOTE)
2 cups chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus more for optional garnish (from 1 bunch)
1 cup chopped cilantro, plus leaves for optional garnish (from 1 bunch)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
30 ounces (from two 15-ounce cans) cooked, no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained (about 3 cups)
8 ounces dried soba noodles
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly grease it.
Place the pumpkin halves cut side down on the baking sheet. Bake until very tender, about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the chimichurri: Combine the garlic, 1/2 cup of the pumpkin seeds, the parsley, cilantro, vinegar, water, oil, the teaspoon of salt and the crushed red pepper flakes in a food processor; pulse to create a chunky, thick puree. Taste, and add salt if needed.Heat the beans in a small skillet over medium heat. Turn off the heat and cover the skillet to keep the beans warm.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook the soba noodles according to the package directions. Drain and return them to the pot. While they are still warm, toss the noodles with about 1/2 cup of the chimichurri and divide among serving bowls.
Scoop out equal amounts of the cooked pumpkin into each bowl. Divide the black beans among the bowls. Top with the remaining chimichurri and the remaining 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds. Garnish with parsley and/or cilantro leaves, if desired.
NOTE: To toast the pumpkin seeds, heat a large, heavy skillet over low-to-medium heat. Add the pumpkin seeds and cook, tossing them occasionally, until the seeds are fragrant and slightly puffed, 5 to 7 minutes. Cool before using.
Per serving (based on 6): 420 calories, 20 g protein, 61 g carbohydrates, 13 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 470 mg sodium, 10 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugar