Remember how I mentioned a few weeks ago that I shamefully reach for white rice over brown rice most of the time?
Well, I’m happy to say that is rapidly changing! Don’t get me wrong, white rice still has its undisputable place, but the texture and flavor of brown rice have become something I crave.
It occurred to me the other day while making dinner that brown rice would probably be pretty awesome mixed with lentils and a tahini-based sauce. I took this idea and ran with it, coming up with this truly Mediterranean inspired brown rice bowl. The sauce I use here is the Smoky Sweet Tahini sauce from my Mint Falafel recipe, with just a little more water added to help it coat the rice more easily.
Have you ever tried baking/roasting tomatoes before? If not, you’re in for a treat! Roasting tomatoes in the oven really brings out their natural sweetness. The texture of a roasted tomato is also just too marvelous for words! I’ve been wanting to incorporate them into a recipe for a while now, and they just have the perfect place in this bowl!
This dish is both gluten free and vegan! (Unless you decide to garnish with feta cheese.) And I’m telling you, it’s so incredibly filling and good for you, you really don’t need to serve it with anything else! Of course, if you’re really really hungry, it’s fantastic with a side of greens and Gardein, or whatever your favorite meat substitute is. If I’m going to pair this bowl with a meat substitute, we really love it with something breaded, like my Seared-Herb-Breaded Gardein cutlets. Talk about a filling meal!
A quick note on brown rice: I really feel like cooking brown rice in a rice cooker is the way to go! My brown rice comes out perfectly every time, and it has absolutely nothing to do with me: it’s the ease and precision of the rice cooker! I am sure one of the reasons why I have become such a brown rice fanatic recently is because of how consistently amazing it turns out when cooked in my rice cooker.
Brown rice requires a bit more water than white rice does. I double the amount of water to rice when cooking brown rice in my rice cooker. If you don’t have a rice cooker, but are looking to get one, it can be a little overwhelming because there are SO. MANY. OPTIONS. And many of them are super advanced and confusing!
I’ve had the same, simple rice cooker for years! It was one of the (few) kitchen items that my husband brought to the marriage. (: Our rice cooker has no fancy options, just fill the bowl with rice and water, push the lever down to cook, and leave it alone! Unless you’re an aspiring rice ninja, that is truly all you need in a rice cooker. Here’s our rice cooker. I highly recommend it, and as you can see, you don’t have to pay much at all for a good quality rice cooker that will last you for years!
Ok, back to the recipe! This dish is so healthy, you should totally feel like you’ve earned dessert after eating it. That is, if you have room for dessert!
Make my Mediterranean Brown Rice Bowl, put on one of the Mamma Mia! films, (a favorite in our house!) and pretend you’re in Greece or whatever Mediterranean country you dream of visiting. (:
Mediterranean Brown Rice Bowl
For the rice:
- 1 ½ cups brown rice, rinsed
- 3 cups water
For the lentils:
- ½ cup dry lentils, rinsed
- 1 cup water
For the Smoky Sweet Tahini Sauce:
- ¼ cup tahini
- 8 Tbsp water
- 1 clove garlic
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- 1 dash pepper
- ¼ tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp lemon, or more to taste
- 1 tsp maple syrup
For the tomatoes:
- 10 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 1 /3 cup parsley, minced
- 1 tsp sea salt
- fresh feta cheese, for garnish
Cook the brown rice
- Cook the brown rice over the stovetop or in your rice cooker. I prefer to do this in my rice cooker so I don’t have to think about it! Simply rinse the rice, put it in the rice cooker with 3 cups water, push the lever down to cook, and walk away!
Cook the lentils
- Now get those lentils going! Put the rinsed lentils in a medium-sized pot. Cover them with the water, and turn the heat up to high. Bring the lentils to a boil.
- Once boiling, bring the heat down to low, and simmer the lentils uncovered until most of the water is absorbed, about 25 minutes.
- Now turn off the heat and cover the lentils. Let them rest covered for five minutes. Lentils are done!
Roast/bake the tomatoes
- While the lentils and rice cook, you can roast/bake your tomatoes. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Line a cookie sheet with foil, and put the halved cherry tomatoes, sea salt, and olive oil on top. Now toss them together with your hands.
- After the olive oil and sea salt evenly coat each tomato half, arrange each tomato so that they are all membrane side up, skin side down. If the membrane side of the tomato is down while baking, they will stick to the foil and you’ll loose all that juicy, sweet goodness when you go to take them off the cookie sheet!
- Roast the tomatoes for 20 minutes, until they have basically shriveled up (for lack of a better word!), and the skin has browned on the bottom. Tomatoes are done! Set them aside.
Make the sauce
- While the tomatoes bake, make the sauce by simply throwing all the sauce ingredients into the food processor, and processing until smooth. Sauce is done!!
Bring it all together
- At this point, your rice, lentils, and tomatoes should all be cooked and ready to go!
- In a large mixing bowl, add the brown rice, lentils, chickpeas, pine nuts, and remaining tsp sea salt. Stir to incorporate.
- Now add the tomatoes and parsley to the bowl. Fold them in very gently so the tomatoes maintain their shape.
- Last, add the smoky sweet tahini sauce to the bowl. I like to use the full amount of sauce this recipe makes, but feel free to start with less sauce and add more as desired. Fold the sauce in to fully incorporate it into the other ingredients.
- This Mediterranean bowl is truly a filling meal all on its own, but it is also great with some spinach and a side of Gardein or your favorite meat substitute. Garnish with fresh feta if desired, then serve and enjoy!
- This dish is great at any temperature, and makes excellent leftovers for lunch the next day.