The official sandwich of summer

Two slices of whole grain bread, plenty of mayo, a tomato fresh from our friends’ garden, sliced thick and doused with salt and pepper. That’s all, folks.

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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.

Confessions, Exceptions, and Admissions

Eating locally can sometimes be a challenge. Especially depending on where you live. I’m really blessed to live in an area that makes an awful lot of amazing things, but I know that’s not everywhere. Then there are those brats who live in California where everything is available locally pretty much all the time and everyone gets it and does it and even the “fast food” joints serve local grass-fed beef. It’s really just infuriating. Or great. Or whatever – you know what I mean.

But being a “locavore” doesn’t mean that you have to give up everything that isn’t grown around you. It just means that whenever possible, you support your local food system. There are a few things I have accepted that I will never be able to acquire locally but that I will never, ever consider giving up. Here’s my short list:

  1. Coffee (duh)
  2. Olive oil (double duh – although, there is an olive farm in Georgia making some amazing oil, maybe that trend can move up to VA??)
  3. Lemons and Lime (I make a lot of mixed drinks and these are essential)
  4. last but not least – AVOCADOS  

Avocados are kind of an obsession for me….they are this perfect combination of fresh, creamy, protein-laden, good-for-you-fats that just makes me happy. There will probably never be an avocado farm in Virginia, but I continue to buy these California imports on a weekly basis. This morning I was feeling an avocado craving coming on and I had one of these flashes of food inspiration that I get sometimes and I saw this sandwich in my mind before I even made it. It was a snap and was (obviously) delicious. Also, huge. It was huge. I ate about 60% of it and gave up. Which is sad. I hate leaving good food behind . . . 

Avocado and Egg Sandwich

Ciabatta bread topped with mashed avocados, watercress, chopped hard-boiled eggs, salt & pepper.

The app I use for these collages, by the way, is called “Pic Frame” and is available FOR FREE in the app store. The latest update now allows you to add labels, which makes the app complete perfection. Notice my shout out to California in the background 😉

The watercress and egg are both local, so see – it’s possible to combine the two without being a total traitor. The watercress just gave the sandwich the right amount of crunch and fresh green needed between those two heavy layers of protein. I only used half of an avocado spread on both halves of the ciabatta roll, so there’s still another half in the fridge waiting to be something yummy. I hard boiled two eggs, but I really only needed one. And if you don’t know – this is the absolute perfect method for making hard boiled eggs with yolks that are still chewy and flavorful instead of dry and chalky:

  • Put your room temp eggs into a sauce pan and pour room temp water over them until they are submerged.
  • Put the sauce pan (covered) over high heat and bring the water up to a boil.
  • When the water has reached a rolling boil, remove the saucepan from the burner, leave the lid on the pan and let the eggs sit for 6 minutes.
  • Using the lid as a strainer, strain the hot water from the pan, dump a few handfuls of ice into the pan on top of the eggs and let sit for 2 minutes.
  • Remove the eggs from the ice, roll across the counter until the shell is cracked all over, then peel. Cut as you’d like.

Avocados are widely regarded as one of the healthiest foods you can eat and particularly some of the best fat you can eat as it is primarily mono and poly-unsaturated fat, which makes it a great protein and fat supplement for vegetarians and vegans or just people like me who try to reduce their meat consumption. And we all know that eggs are a great source of protein. But not all eggs are created equal. In fact, several studies show that farm-fresh pasture raised chickens (which you will pretty much only find from local sources) are nearly 5 times higher in Vitamin D, have 1/3 less cholesterol, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E and the list goes on. And anybody who’s ever eaten a locally raised egg will tell you that the taste is the biggest difference. Eggs that you buy from the grocery store are “factory raised” eggs and even though they may be labeled “organic” “free-range” or “vegetarian-fed” it doesn’t mean what you might think. Thanks to the blog “Simple Bites” for explaining this quickly and easily:

“In order for eggs to be labeled “free-range” a chicken needs to have access to the outdoors.  This usually means hundreds of chicken confined to an industrial chicken house with a small slab of concrete to walk outdoors if they’d like. Your “free-range egg” chickens are really spending their lives indoors in a ventilated area and will not have the nutrient levels as described above.  If you’re buying “vegetarian-fed eggs”, this is a sure sign that they do not have access to pasture as real chickens are not vegetarians.”

And that’s that. Locally raised eggs are available all over and while their natural season is spring, they are usually available year-round thanks to heating lamps and modern amenities. Find out where to get yours at http://www.localharvest.org or several of the other links on the right-hand side bar on my home page.

Getting back to the sandwich: it was delicious, it was easy, it melded my favorite import with some of my very favorite local ingredients and just one roll, half an avocado, two eggs and a few sprigs of watercress probably could have fed me and Jeremy for dinner.

What are some imported foods that you can’t live without? What is your favorite thing to do with avocados? Are you eating locally raised eggs and can you taste the difference?
Leave me a comment and let’s chat!

Lunch

This is lunch pretty much every day of the summer:

tomato sandwich

Tomato and watercress sandwich with vinegar cucumbers

I work from home, so I’m able to make stuff like this at lunch time….I think a packed tomato sandwich would probably get a bit soggy. Local tomatoes, watercress and a little mayo on whole wheat bread with oriental cucumbers sliced into some apple cider vinegar with salt and pepper. That is a certified southern summer staple, right there. What do you love for lunch in the summer?