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Lynda Balslev: Transform your salad into a meal with layers

Lynda Balslev
Columnist

 

A salad that calls itself a substantial meal is not a floppy affair. Greens are certainly welcome, if not prolific, but a main-course salad is more than ruffled lettuce leaves. The key to a satisfying salad is to add layers of ingredients that contribute heft and texture — to create a dish that is filling, yet light, and that won’t leave you rummaging in the fridge for snacks when you are finished.

This salad consists of three separate components that unite beautifully, yet can be equally enjoyed on their own. Bulgur wheat consists of cracked whole-grain kernels of wheat that are parboiled and dried. The kernels are nutty and chewy, and packed with protein and fiber. Bulgur is a traditional staple in Levantine cuisine and a feature of tabbouleh, a popular chopped grain salad. Bulgur is also a hearty and toothsome addition to soups and stews, a filler in ground meat or vegetable patties, and a simple protein-rich alternative for a grain side dish. Note that other grains, such as rice, farro or quinoa, can be substituted for the bulgur in this salad. (The cooking methods will vary depending on the grain.)

The grilled vegetables speak for themselves; always a delight, especially in the summer, when Provencal vegetables are abundant. They, too, can be mixed and matched to your taste and availability. Whipped feta is the extra dollop on top, literally and figuratively. Salty, briny feta is elevated and lightened by a blitz in a food processor with Greek yogurt and lemon. The result is a creamy, puckery spread that can serve as a dip or a dressing. You may not use all the whipped feta for the salad, which is a good thing, because it’s a versatile condiment that can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days.



Finally, let’s talk about one of the spices that makes this salad pop: Aleppo pepper is a deep red chile pepper that is sweet, fruity and warmly spiced. It doesn’t scream heat, like cayenne or crushed red pepper flakes, and it’s a wonderful flavor enhancer. If you can’t find Aleppo pepper, Piment d’Espelette is a great substitute, or simply use sweet paprika.

Roasted Vegetable and Bulgur Salad

Active time: 30 minutes



Total time: 1 hour

Yield: Serves 4

Whipped Feta:

6 ounces feta cheese

1/3 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bulgur:

1 cup medium-coarse bulgur

1 cup water

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 clove garlic, minced or pushed through a press

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or Piment d’Espelette

3 small summer squashes or zucchinis

2 small baby eggplants

1 ear yellow corn, shucked

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced, about 1/4 cup

1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, plus more for garnish

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish

Combine all the feta ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. (If you prefer a looser spread, add additional yogurt.)

Combine the bulgur, water, oil and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then cover the pot and turn off the heat. Let stand until the liquid is absorbed and the bulgur is tender, about 25 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cumin, lemon zest and Aleppo pepper. Taste for seasoning. Set aside to cool.

Slice the squash and eggplant lengthwise, 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick. Place in a bowl with the corn. Drizzle the vegetables with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat.

Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat. Transfer the squash and eggplant to the grill and cook until charred and tender, turning as needed, 5 to 8 minutes. Grill the corn until charred and crisp-tender, turning as needed, 6 to 8 minutes.

Cut the corn off the cob. Stir the corn, onion, parsley and mint into the bulgur. Divide between serving plates. Arrange the squash and eggplant over the bulgur. Drop dollops of the whipped feta over the salad and garnish with additional mint and/or parsley.

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area

The key to a satisfying salad is to add layers of ingredients that contribute heft and texture — to create a dish that is filling, yet light, and that won't leave you rummaging in the fridge for snacks when you are finished.
Photo by Lynda Balslev

 

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