Grain bowls have been a savior for Carolynn Carreños, a food writer who’s had her fair share of rich meals.
“I still want to eat delicious food, I just want to make sure that I feel good the next day,” said Carreño, who has written for Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Gourmet and Saveur. “This was my way to eat really delicious food while also waking up and feeling spry and bright and not like I have a food hangover.”
Carreño isn’t the only one to have embraced the one-dish meal. Bowls have become a staple at health-conscious spots such as Dimes in NYC and Sqirl in Los Angeles, as well as cookbooks like last year’s “Bowl” by Lukas Volger.
Enter into the mix, “Bowls of Plenty” ($28; out Jan. 17). The cookbook is the first solo effort from Carreno, who has coauthored books, including Nancy Silverton’s “Mozza at Home” and Pat LaFrieda’s “Meat: Everything There is to Know,” and it is all about flavor first.
“I was never going to be somebody who would eat ‘health food’ health food — loaded down with weird health-food spices like cumin and curry, like they want to bury the flavor,” said Carreño, who splits her time between the West Village and her hometown of San Diego, California. “I wanted to have bright flavors and have it be healthy because it was fresh, more like an Alice Waters, Chez Panisse approach — you have this gorgeous food, you just dress it up a little bit with some sauce and vinaigrette and herbs, and then it’s healthy just because it is.”
To that end, her recipes include slightly-indulgent dessert bowls (in addition to breakfast, salad and main bowls) and fatty cuts of meat like pork belly — but with an eye for moderation.
“How much shredded pork can I get away with and still feel like doing yoga at 6 in the morning? — that was the bar I set for this cookbook,” Carreño said.
Carreño has interned at Chez Panisse, sold fruit for a Hudson Valley farmer at the Union Square Greenmarket, traveled the world and collaborated on a variety of cookbooks. All of those experiences have weaved their way into “Bowls of Plenty” and its more than 100 recipes, from corn stock for her corn rice to the spice apple breakfast farro.
“I’ve lived nine lives — each one of those could have been its own book,” Carreño said. “I took bits and pieces of those experiences into a book on grain bowls.”
Go-tos for the food writer include her coconut millet porridge, baja BBQ shrimp bowl, shaved Brussels sprouts salad, and turkey picadillo, in the Chiles en Nogada bowl.
“Everybody loves it,” Carreño said of the turkey picadillo. “It’s like Rice-A-Roni, without the flavor packet and MSG. It’s so flavorful and comforting.”
Though bowls may be trending right now — especially so-called “Buddha bowls,” made up of veggie scraps, and Insta-friendly “dragon bowls” — Carreño believes grain bowls will be a staple for healthful eating.
“Today, everyone knows what quinoa is — 15 years ago, I didn’t even know how to pronounce it, I didn’t know how to cook it and I didn’t know how to eat it,” Carreño said. “The idea of eating in bowls, and broadening your horizons with grains, is here to stay.”