After racing at the HyVee Triathlon last year, I knew the odds of finding healthy, gluten-free meals in downtown Des Moines were slim. The few restaurants within walking distance of my hotel catered to the 9 to 5 crowd and were closed on weekends. I subsisted on the free hotel breakfast and a jar of peanut butter.
This year, I arrived with a suitcase full of snacks and staples that I could turn into a meal: pre-cooked brown rice, boxed chickpeas, and a hunk of hard cheese.
But last weekend I got lucky. Laurel and I stumbled onto the huge downtown Des Moines Farmers Market while out for a run the morning after we arrived. I jogged back to hotel grasping bags of local produce. I didn't buy everything I wanted, but could carry just enough to elevate my staples into a more complete meal. Compared to last year's peanut butter, it was nearly gourmet.
The downtown Des Moines Farmers Market is a cross between the Union Square Greenmarket and a New York City street fair. Local farm stands neighbored corn dog vendors and artisans selling homespun yard.
One thing I noticed right away was that almost all of the farmers were southeast Asian, selling the traditional American vegetables alongside a variety of vegetables I’ve only ever seen in Chinatown: bitter balls, long beans, bags of squash greens with the blossoms and baby squash still attached. I sampled peaches from Colorado and Missouri, honey, and homemade jams and mustard. Laurel tried the mini donuts.
Since I planned on "cooking” out of a hotel room with no knives, pots, or pans, I had to carefully choose my produce.
I picked up a basket of sungold tomatoes and a bunch of long beans. I bought a small container of black sesame seeds from a spice vendor.
The beans were so fresh and crispy that I figured I could snap them into bite sized pieces. The tiny tomatoes were super flavorful and would provide some a nice sauce.
Back at the hotel I cooked with the microwavable bowl and utensils I always pack in case the hotel doesn’t have a restaurant.
Rice Bowl with Chick Peas, Tomatoes, and Long Beans
1 package of pre-cooked brown rice (about 2 cups)
1 box of precooked chickpeas
1 handful of sungold tomatoes
1 handful of of long beans, broken into bite-sized pieces
1 small handful of pecorino romano (or another variety of hard cheese)
black sesame seeds (optional)
Put rice and chickpeas in a microwavable bowl and microwave until warm, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add a handful each of tomatoes and long beans, and microwave for an 90 seconds to lightly cook the beans and soften the tomatoes.
Season with salt and pepper. Use a fork to puncture the tomatoes to allow the juices to seep out. Mix salad to coat rice and peas with tomato juices.Top with cheese and black sesame seeds.