TasteFood: Middle Eastern grain salad beats the heat
When it’s super-hot outside, who wants to cook?
In the heat of summer, dinner prep should be low-maintenance. Appetites are limp in high temperatures, and fresh salads filled with juicy ingredients are cool and nourishing. For a whole meal, salads can reach beyond the garden while remaining light and fresh. The addition of legumes and grains provides substance, less the weight of heavy meat proteins. Tabbouleh salad is a perfect answer to this tall hot-weather order.
Tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern salad consisting of nutty bulgur wheat and gads of fresh chopped herbs and chopped garden vegetables. Bulgur is a nutritious, cracked whole-wheat cereal grain that is minimally processed, and a good source of protein, B vitamins, magnesium and iron. It’s available as a fine, medium or coarse grain.
While traditional tabbouleh often uses fine-grain bulgur, I prefer medium-grain with its toothsome satisfying texture. The salad is bound together by olive oil and generous squirts of bright citrus juice, and infused with the flavor of an unabashed amount of spices.
This salad is delicious as is, or spooned into pita pockets and garnished with additional feta, fresh mint and a squirt of harissa or hot sauce. Either way, it’s guaranteed to wake your taste buds from their summer siesta reverie.
Greek Tabbouleh Salad
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes plus chilling time
Yield: Serves 4 to 6
1 1/2 cups bulgur
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste
3 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, diced
1 poblano pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely diced
1 cup cooked or canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup crumbled feta
Combine the bulgur, water, and lemon juice in a bowl. Cover the bowl and let stand until the liquid is absorbed and the bulgur is tender, about 20 minutes.
Fluff the bulgur with a fork, and add the oil, cumin, salt, black pepper and cayenne and stir to blend. Add the remaining ingredients, stir to combine and taste for seasoning. If the bulgur is too dry, add additional olive oil, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve your desired consistency. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to develop. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
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