Spice It Up: Middle Eastern Grain Bowls Recipe

Middle Eastern Grain Bowls. Spice up your routine with a quick, easy, #BigBatchRecipe featuring your new favorite spice, za'atar! | themillennialmenu.com

This recipe for Middle Eastern Grain Bowls features a new spice you need to add to your spice cabinet: za'atar. It's a mild blend of thyme, sesame seeds, and sumac that adds a depth of flavor beyond the normal go-to's of salt, pepper, basil, and oregano. I first bought za'atar for this recipe, and now it's one of my favorite spices to sprinkle on almost any roasted vegetable.

Tossed with chicken, farro, chickpeas, eggplant, tomatoes and goat cheese, this grain bowl is the perfect make-ahead dish for lunches, enjoyable both warm and cold. I'm a big proponent of the idea behind (Not)Recipes, and this meal is exactly that - yes, there's a list of ingredients, and yes, you should probably cook some of them, but you can pretty much sub ingredients in and out depending on your tastes and work in any proportions you want. This is one of my #BigBatchRecipes that is great to make and have on hand for quick dinner and lunches for the week. If you want to triple the farro and make this more of a grain side salad than a bowl, go for it. If you don't want to shred your chicken and decide to top a whole roasted chicken breast with your mixture, why not. If you'd like to leave out something, I promise I wont be offended.

Lastly, I know I've raved about it already, but the za'atar is really the star of the show here. Otherwise, this would be just another bowl of stuff you threw together that's in your fridge. But, when you add za'atar, the dish transforms into something with depth, with flavor, and with excitement. You'll want to have extra for tomorrow, I promise.



Middle Eastern Grain Bowls Recipe

Makes 1-2 servings
Other recipes with these ingredients: Farro: Five Minute Fish Taco Bowls // Za'atar spice: on any combo of roasted veggies // Fresh Parsley: Shrimp Scampi

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup cooked, shredded chicken (I recommend the pre-cooked rotisserie chickens from the deli - read more about why on the Grocery Guide - but if you're cooking your chicken, see instructions below)
  • 1/4 cup dry *pearled* farro (1/2 cup cooked) (Substitute: quinoa, wild rice, orzo, etc. Read more about types of farro on the Grocery Guide)
  • 1/2 can chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup cubed eggplant (roasted, see instructions below) Optional
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes Optional
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • Salt + pepper
  • 2-3 teaspoons Za'atar spice (learn more about za'tar on the Grocery Guide)
  • Goat cheese - to taste, approximately 1/4 cup (Substitute: feta) Optional
  • Fresh Parsley Optional

Note on optional ingredients: While the eggplant and cherry tomatoes are optional if you hate them, the dish really does need some veggies and won't be complete with at least one of them. The rest of the optional items won't make or break the dish, but for the love of cheese, please add some.




Dietary Substitutions
Dairy Free: No cheese.
Vegetarian: Add more chickpeas + farro for extra protein, or mix in tofu.
Vegan: Dairy Free + Vegetarian, plus no honey. If you want to sweeten up your dressing, use another sweetener like maple syrup, but don't let it overpower the dish.
Gluten Free: Substitute a gluten-free grain, like quinoa or wild rice.

Directions:

PREP FARRO, CHICKEN, & EGGPLANT
1.  Add 1/4 cup of dry, pearled farro and 1/2 cup of water to a pot. Bring to a boil. Turn down to low heat, let simmer for approximately 25 minutes, until farro is tender [Important Ratio: 1:2 dry farro:cooked farro, 1:2 farro:water].
2. If you're not using the pre-cooked rotisserie chickens, start with 1 small raw chicken breast. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the chicken breast on a non-stick surface, and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Cook 20-30 minutes, depending on thickness, until the chicken is no longer translucent/pink inside (or until the internal temp reaches 165°F). While the chicken is cooking, you can also...
3. Roast the eggplant! To do this, cut the eggplant into small cubes. Sprinkle with approximately 1 tablespoon or so of the za'atar spice. Toss to coat. Roast at 350°F until the eggplant is soft in texture and browned, about 30 minutes. While most recipes for cubed roasted eggplant call for higher heat, it's okay to be efficient and roast the eggplant while the chicken is cooking - it will just take a little more time.

PREP YOUR DRESSING
4. Whisk together the juice of half a lemon, 1/4 cup of olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper, a drizzle of honey, and 1 tablespoon of za'atar. Taste test and add any additional ingredients to balance out the dressing.

COMBINE & GARNISH
5. Once the chicken is done, shred the chicken with a fork or by hand. Add the chicken to the bowl, along with your 1/2 cup of farro, 1/2 can of chickpeas, 1/2 cup of your roasted eggplant cubes, and a handful of cherry tomatoes (I like to slice mine in half). 
6. Drizzle the dressing over the mixture and toss to coat everything in the bowl.
7. Mix in goat cheese (I crumble mine into small pieces) and garnish with parsley. 

Yum.


Lunch tomorrow, Storing, & Extra Ingredients

LUNCH TOMORROW - Depending on your appetite and portions (adding a little extra of your favorite ingredients won't hurt anyone), you'll likely have a serving left over for lunch. Even if you don't have a full lunch, toss your leftovers in a tupperware for a smaller mid-afternoon snack. Bowls make great leftovers (just like my Five Minute Fish Taco Bowls), and this dish can be eaten warm or cold. Make sure to toss/stir/shake before eating again so the juices distribute evenly.

STORING - Store in a tupperware container in the fridge. Since there is cooked chicken in the salad, it's best to enjoy within 3-4 days.

EXTRA INGREDIENTS - With the shredded chicken, make chicken noodle soup or chicken salad. I freeze mine using my FoodSaver (another reason Why Every Millennial Needs a FoodSaver). What's nice about grains is you can make just the right amount, but if you do have extra farro, you can add it to almost anything - soup, salads - or try it in the Five Minute Fish Taco Bowls. You'll have half a can of chickpeas leftover, which I also freeze in packs with my FoodSaver. They're also great added to salad or soups, or mashed up on a sandwich (think lazy hummus!). Extra eggplant is delicious for snacking, but again, can be added to a sandwich (maybe with some marinara sauce and mozzarella like a eggplant parmesan) or salad. The cherry tomatoes are perfect snacking material with ranch dip, or drizzled with balsamic glaze with some mozzarella and basil, if you have them. I always have goat cheese in my fridge because I'm obsessed, and I love it with salads, especially beets & kale, or spread on pear slices with prosciutto. Lastly, parsley is the perfect ingredient to whip up a batch of shrimp scampi (you just need to add lemons, pasta, butter, and shrimp!)


This recipe was inspired by Green Kitchen Stories' Chickpea Za'atar Salad.