Whole Fast Food and Silly Americans

The first time I saw bulgur wheat I was 21 and living in Brazil.  I was serving a mission for my Church, and my companion, who was Brazilian (missionaries go two by two, and call each other companions), decided to make a salad for lunch.  We ate most lunches with members–it was a daily fare of rice and beans and salad with lime–but we supplied our own breakfasts and dinners, and lunches on our “Preparation day” (our cleaning/laundry/errand running/letter-writing day).  And as missionaries are on a strict budget, breakfasts and dinners had to be affordable.  I’ll be honest, we usually only bought mangos, bananas and popcorn, and if we had extra at the end of the month we would splurge and buy cheese and crackers, jam, or yogurt for smoothies.

For this particular meal, my companion made it extra special and bought tomatoes, cucumbers, and bulgur wheat.  When I asked her what it was and how to cook it, she gave me a look that required no words (English or Portuguese) “Silly Americans, do you not know what bulgur wheat is?!”, and then proceeded to say, “It’s so simple, you just pour the amount of wheat you want in a bowl, boil a little more water than wheat, pour it over, cover it, and when it’s done, just add your tomato and cucumber.”  So simple, so yummy!

I am sure not all Americans are silly, but I’d simply never been exposed to bulgur wheat.  Maybe I had, but just didn’t know it.  You know how it goes, you’ve finally left the nest, you’re out on your own, and the whole world seems new because you’re seeing it through your own new, grown-up eyes.

(Side story:  I was talking with a mom after I’d gotten home from Brazil; her son had served a mission in Mexico.  He came home saying, “Mom, they had the best kind of fruit there–it was like an orange, only much, much smaller!”  His mom was sure he was talking about clementines, but he insisted they weren’t.  The next time they went to the grocery store, he excitedly ran over to these amazing mini-oranges.  They were clementines.)

Anyway, I’d like to think I’m less of a silly American now, and bulgur wheat is usually in my cupboard for a quick go-to meal.

Bulgur wheat is also called cracked wheat, and it’s considered a whole grain, which means it contains the endosperm, germ, and bran of a seed.  And being a whole grain, it’s loaded with fiber, and also has a fair amount of potassium, protein, iron, zinc, and niacin.  It’s most traditionally used to make the Middle Eastern tabbouleh salad, with loads of parsley, mint, lemon, tomatoes, and cucumbers.  Bulgur wheat has a sweet, nutty flavor, and, like my companion pointed out, is super easy to make–probably the fastest whole food out there!  Which I hope will make you think twice the next time you feel like you only have time to do a fast food drive-thru run for a meal!

tabbouleh ingredients whole

For my tabbouleh, I used what I had on hand–you are going to see me saying this A LOT.  Use what you have on hand!  That doesn’t mean if you are out of curry powder to go ahead and substitute paprika, because that’s what you have on hand.  Spices are one thing, and veggies are another.  The purpose of this salad is to add some fresh crunch to accompany the bulgur wheat, and some citrus for zip.  Experiment with flavors you like–I had tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, celery, basil, and lemon.  If you have green pepper, red onion, olives, feta cheese, parsley and lemon, use that.  Or cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, jalapeño, cilantro, and lime, use that.  It’s a super simple salad that can take on many different flavors.  And on the side?  I had fresh farm-stand peaches.  Tasted just like summer!

tabbouleh ingredients chopped copytabbouleh 3tabbouleh 4


FAST FOOD TABBOULEH

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

The purpose of this salad is to add some fresh crunch to accompany the bulgur wheat, and some citrus for zip.  Experiment with flavors you like–I had tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, celery, basil, and lemon.  If you have green pepper, red onion, olives, feta cheese, parsley and lemon, use that.  Or cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, jalapeño, cilantro, and lime, use that.  It’s a super simple salad that can take on many different flavors.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup bulgur wheat, uncooked
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup cucumbers, thinly chopped
  • 1/2-3/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery, finely chopped (if you can use the inside stems with leaves attached, the leaves will add more flavor)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, julienned
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place the bulgur wheat in a medium bowl with a lid.  Boil the water and pour over the wheat, then cover and let sit for 10-15 minutes.
  2. While the wheat is “cooking”, you can get the rest of your ingredients chopped and diced. Place them all in a large bowl.
  3. When the wheat is soft, add to the large bowl with your veggies.  Add the lemon zest and juice, sprinkle salt and pepper to taste, and a drizzle of olive oil.  Stir and serve.

Serving suggestions:  You could just eat it as is, with a spoon, or scoop it up with crackers; Put it in a pita with spinach for a pita sandwich; scoop out a tomato and fill it with the tabbouleh for a “stuffed tomato”.

meatlessmain.com

Advertisements

Mystery Box Salad

Do you ever feel like dinnertime is a cooking show mystery box challenge and you have to throw ingredients together and whip up some fabulous meal before your husband kids… someone…votes you off the island?  Although timers and cooking-under-pressure aren’t really my thing, I think I would survive a mystery box challenge–I’m a stay-at-home mama!  I create my weekly meal plan based on the ingredients I have in my fridge and cupboards at the time, no more, no less, and it gets pretty creative sometimes.

I will either throw the lucky ingredients together for a great mystery box dinner…and cross my fingers…(Green salad mix?  Cauliflower?  Apricots?  Shrimp?  How about a homemade green spaghetti pasta with roasted cauliflower and shrimp in a garlic cream apricot sauce topped with sunflower seeds and fresh basil?), or grab one main ingredient I have and consult a cookbook.  Fennel bulb?  Snap peas?  Grapefruit?  I used Martha Stewart for this dinner salad inspiration, and adapted her fennel and snap pea salad to include a few more ingredients I had on hand, because fresh fruit always wants to join the salad party.

fennel snap pea salad beginnings copy

fennel snap pea salad

And seriously, what goes with a salad better than roasted sweet potatoes and homemade buttery croissants?  And I swear, taking a bite of the licorice-y fennel with the roasted, salted pistachios tasted exactly like bacon.  Great combo!

croissants


FENNEL, SNAP PEA, AND FRESH FRUIT SALAD WITH GRAPEFRUIT VINAIGRETTE

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Fennel and Snap Pea Salad from her Meatless Cookbook.  I used pear, grapefruit, and avocado as the “fresh fruit” portion of the salad, because that’s what I had on hand.  You could easily substitute nectarines, peaches, berries and lime or lemon (in the summer), or pears, apples, and oranges (in the winter).  Just be sure to include a citrus to section up in the salad and use the juice for the vinaigrette.

SALAD INGREDIENTS

  • 1 fennel bulb, core removed and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup snap peas, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 pear, thinly sliced
  • 2 grapefruits, sectioned and juiced (put juice in a smaller bowl for later use)
  • 1/2 cup roasted/salted pistachios

VINAIGRETTE INGREDIENTS

  • juice from two grapefruits
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

SALAD ASSEMBLY

Put all salad ingredients in a large bowl.  Add salt and pepper to taste in the smaller bowl with the grapefruit juice, and whisk in the olive oil.  Whisk in just enough until the dressing comes together.  Pour over the fruits and veggies in the larger bowl and gently toss.  Serve with whole grain bread (or croissants!).

meatlessmain.com