Saturday, August 29, 2009

Corn, Tomato & Toasted Bulgur Salad

This sounds a little TOO healthy, doesn't it? I hate to do that, use a recipe title that comes off as too virtuous, or even use 'bulgur' in a sentence, really. I mean, it sounds hippie at best, you know?

I don't mean to use the word 'hippie' in such an insulting way. Honest. But when a long-time vegetarian is married to a devout carnivore, well, it takes a considerable amount of thought (and a little bit of concession) to make dinners palatable to everyone, both in form and function. I am not trying to convert the man, per se, but a happy medium is clearly in order, and feeding the man hippie food probably isn't the best way to further my cause.

So, um, I'm pretty sure I didn't mention the word 'bulgur' when I recited the menu to The Carnivore on the evening I prepared this salad. 'Tabouli with Fresh Corn' might have been the title I used for this side dish, because somehow the word 'tabouli' sounds so much less threatening really, than bulgur.

Truth be told, even I was a little nervous about this recipe. Bulgur has a bit of an off-putting smell when cooking, and has been served in any number of unattractive vegetarian dishes, so there were doubts. Doubts even here.

It's just that I've been in a bit of limbo with cooking as of late. The recession has made me nervous about spending money, so some compromises have been made in the shopping list, resulting in mad amounts of guilt on my part (I have ceased buying organic in some instances) along with a few overall sacrifices in flavor (less expensive cheeses just don't measure up).

We did join our CSA again this summer, and I pilfered my mother's garden when possible, but tomatoes have been scarcer than usual and farmer's market visits have been infrequent at best. So for much of the season, I have tried to wing it with our dinner plans nearly every day. Instead of planning menus in advance, and shopping for ingredients that may then languish in the pantry or fridge, I decided we had storehouses of plenty on hand already. There was seemingly no reason why I couldn't use our weekly CSA box and our pantry staples to make meals on the fly.

For the most part, this plan worked. And really, it would probably do all of us a little good to try and make do with what we have. I'm trying to live as thoughtfully as possible, and my constant goal these days is to be less of a consumer. So rather than finding new recipes online and then building my shopping list around the recipes, I've been taking household inventory and then searching for new recipes to go with what we've got. It's not rocket science, but the concept is counter-intuitive to what we've become accustomed to, I think.

During the summer, it is easy to fly by the seat of your pants when menu-planning, especially when blessed with the weekly harvest from our CSA's bounty. And this salad is exactly one of those pantry-and-CSA-box recipes. I had a bag of bulgur lurking in the back of the pantry already, and I always keep olive oil and a variety of vinegars around. So when I found myself with a boxful of tomatoes, corn and scallions from the farm, well, this recipe seemed like a gift from above, you know?

Of course, like I mentioned, I was skeptical, so I hedged my bets (as I often do with a new recipe) and planned this as one of a few dishes. We were having a vegetable plate night anyhow, with a mixed green salad and fresh vinaigrette, fresh green beans sauteed with garlic, and roasted potatoes. If this bulgur thing bombed, we would be in no danger of starving to death, especially since the greens, beans, and potatoes had all come from the CSA as well, and were as fresh as could be and just bursting with flavor.

Lo and behold though, The Carnivore and I both really enjoyed this recipe. The flavors were bright and fresh, and the texture of the toothsome grain was a sublime foil to the fresh tomatoes. The salad got better with time, as does tabouli, so next time I will plan ahead and make this earlier in the day so the flavors have more time to meld and the bulgur has more of a chance to soak up the flavor of the vinegar. When I ate the leftovers for lunch the following day, I practically licked the bowl clean. And it was delicious both warm and cold, so it is perfect for packing into a container and taking to work (or on a late-summer picnic, yes?).

The salad is also very, very healthy, high in fiber and protein, but there is really no need to give that information to anyone already skittish about hippie food...


TOASTED BULGUR SALAD WITH CORN AND TOMATOES (adapted from Gourmet magazine, serves 8)

Note: bulgur can be found in health food stores and in most well-stocked grocery stores now
  • 1 1/2 cups bulgur
  • 2 3/4 cups broth (or water, or a mixture of the two)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
  • 2 cups fresh corn (from 3 to 4 ears)
  • 8 oz fresh tomatoes, diced or chopped, seeds and juice removed (I used red and yellow tomatoes and they looked beautiful together in the salad)
  • 3/4 cup chopped green onions or shallots
  • 3 Tbs red-wine vinegar, plus more to taste
  1. In a large heavy skillet, over medium-high heat, toast the bulgur for 5-10 minutes, until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.
  2. In a saucepan, bring broth & salt to a boil, and stir in toasted bulgur. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes, until broth is absorbed.
  3. In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat, and saute corn for 2 to 3 minutes, until barely tender.
  4. In a large bowl, combine bulgur, corn, tomatoes, green onions and vinegar. Add salt & pepper to taste, and add more vinegar and a little more olive oil if desired.
  5. Refrigerate, and let stand for a few hours for the flavors to meld. Serve warm or cold.

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