Pantry Raid IV: better bulgur

Bulgur sounds gross, and I get that. But it’s really not. Bulgur is parboiled cracked wheat berries. It’s a super whole grain with a wonderful nutty taste. It also has a great texture that I can only describe as “toothsome.” It isn’t hard, but even after being soaked, it has tooth –  like very good al dente pasta. Just one cup of bulgur has over 25 grams of fiber and over 17 grams of protein. And incidentally, I had a huge bag of it in my cabinet that I needed to start working on getting rid of.

Bulgar, like quinoa, is a great base for salads. This bugar salad recipe came from Everyday Food, and it’s really light and delicious and keeps well. Make it at the beginning of the week, measure it out into individual containers and then grab them for a healthy lunch on the go. This recipe makes a lot – like most grains, just one cup, once cooked, makes a huge amount of food and because it is high in fiber and protein, you don’t need to eat much to get full. I made this salad for dinner with a yummy marinated salmon and still had enough left over for lunch several days that week. This salad also incorporates chick peas (or Garbanzo beans – whichever name you prefer). Chick peas are also full of protein, so you really can’t go wrong here. Leave out the feta for a (still delicious) Vegan side dish.

Bulgur and Chick Pea Salad

bulgar with salmon close

Ingredients

  • 1 cup bulgur
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest and 2 tablespoons juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta (2 ounces)
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine bulgur with boiling water. Cover and let stand 20 minutes; drain and return to bowl. Rinse and drain chickpeas, then add to bowl with lemon zest and juice, olive oil, dill, and feta; season with salt and pepper.

For the salmon, I combined a little olive oil, a dash of white wine vinegar, the juice of half of a lemon, some dill, salt and pepper and put the salmon into some tin foil, made a pouch, poured the marinade over the salmon, wrapped it up really good and baked at 375 for about 15 minutes. It was perfect together and it would be a crime to eat this meal without a glass of good Chardonnay. So don’t let the name throw you off, replace that pasta side dish with a healthier bulgur alternative.

If you eat this without a glass of Chardonnay, you are committing a crime against food.

If you eat this without a glass of Chardonnay, you are committing a crime against food.

The possibilities here are endless – Greek bulgar salad with grilled chicken, feta, cucumbers, tomatoes and kalamata olives; bulgar and lentil salad with grapefruit vinaigrette, breakfast bulgar with maple syrup and baked apples . . . OK, I’m starting to sound like a bulgur growing Bubba from Forrest Gump. You get the picture.

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A Little Dab Will Do Ya

Julia Child noted in Mastering the Art of French Cooking that “Sauces are the splendor and glory of French cooking, yet there is  nothing secret or mysterious about making them.” This is so absolutely true. A good sauce can elevate an ordinary meal to something spectacular and while a Hollandaise or Bechamel may sound French and scary, there’s really nothing to it. And most basic sauces are made with things you probably already have on hand: butter, eggs, flour, some stock or broth. And once you learn to make some basic sauces, and you’ve mastered their techniques, you can start to expand, making your own: adding some herbs, cheese, or anything else that sounds good.

A good French sauce usually starts with cream or butter. Two things that I usually stay away from, but as Julia herself said “Everything in moderation… including moderation.” The thing about good sauces is that you don’t need much of them. In fact, a very good sauce will do its job in just a dab or two. So indulge away. Julia would.

Served over salmon - a perfect, buttery complement.

Hollandaise served over salmon – a perfect, buttery complement.

Hollandaise with Dill

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 egg yolks (fresh and local, if possible)
  • 1 Tb lemon juice
  • 1/2 C. unsalted butter, melted, but not hot
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/8 C. chopped, fresh dill

Method:

  1. Vigorously whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice together in a stainless steel bowl and until the mixture is thickened and doubled in volume.
  2. Place the bowl over a saucepan containing barely simmering water (or use a double boiler,) the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl. Continue to whisk rapidly. Be careful not to let the eggs get too hot or they will scramble.
  3. Slowly drizzle in the melted butter and continue to whisk until the sauce is thickened and doubled in volume.
  4. Remove from heat, whisk in salt and dill. Cover and place in a warm spot until ready to use. If the sauce sits for awhile and gets too thick, whisk in a few drops of warm water before serving.

I got these eggs from a little farm stand down the street and the dill came through my co-op from Vaughan Farms in Virginia Beach. When you’re dealing with so few ingredients and with such an intensified flavor, you’d do well to use the best, freshest ingredients you can get. Again, Julie backs me up when she says “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.”

What are your favorite sauces? Or your favorite indulgences?