Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bulgar Salad

Happy hump day! I'm so stoked to tell you about my lunch today, but first let me share a little of my weekend.

Our "prom pose"
This weekend, we were graced with some serious summer weather! The daytime temperature hovered in the 90's and the nights were in the 70's, making it perfect for grilling (don't worry--I'll be sharing some of these grill recipes very soon!). It was also perfect weather for bike riding, gardening, walking the dog, and just lounging in my backyard in my bathing suit, soaking up some rays. Such relaxation! I felt like I was on a tropical vacation, right in my own city. Oh! And did I mention I went to prom this weekend too?! My husband teaches at an alternative high school in the city, so we decided to attend their prom/end-of-year social, which just so happened to be on a rooftop in Chelsea, near the High Line and the Meatpacking District. OMG! Talk about the views! The sunset over the Hudson River was just breathtaking, and definitely a rare treat for this Brooklyn resident.
My corsage. This was Steve's first prom! 

Anyway, back to the reality of the work week and that lunch of mine. Remember the trip I took to Jungle Jim's while I was in Ohio a couple of weeks ago? Well, while I was there I picked up some bulk bulgar wheat because I wanted to try to make this bulgar and lentils salad I really love from my favorite local Mediterranean spot. And man did I strike some serious health-food gold when I thought of the salad I am going to share with you today.

Bulgar is super easy to make, and it's high-fiber, low-calorie, and low-fat, making it a great option for lunch. I made my first batch the other night for that bulgar and lentils salad, and while it was yummy, I've been contemplating more flavorful ways of preparing it as compared to simple hot water and salt. And I'd say I definitely succeeded here.

Preparing the Bulgar
For those of you who don't know, bulgar is a type of cracked whole wheat grain. Often it is sold already partially cooked, making it quick to make. There is a fine grain version available that is considered "instant" because it only takes about 5 minutes to cook through. Medium and course grains are also available if you want more bite behind your cracked wheat, although they take a little longer to cook. Most health food stores stock bulgar wheat in the bulk food section, although you may also find it in the baking or cereal aisles.

When I purchased my bulgar, I chose a medium grain (it was labeled as "#2") because I wanted a little more bite. I began by heating some water to boiling using a tea kettle. While it was heating, I prepared the seasoning, which really is what made this batch of bulgar so yummy compared to my last batch. I used about a teaspoon each of harissa, curry, red pepper flakes, and red and black sea salt from Hawaii for their mineral content--although regular sea salt would work just fine. I also chopped up some spring onion and fresh mint and tossed them in. You could also add garlic or lime juice if you have it available, or even replace the water with some vegetable or chicken stock for added variety and flavor. When the water started to boil, I added 1 1/3 cup to the seasoning mix and gave it a good stir. I then added a cup of the bulgar wheat, gave it a quick stir, and let it sit, covered, for 20 minutes. If the water is not entirely absorbed after 20 minutes, just let it sit a little longer. I then fluffed with a fork and added some fresh cracked black pepper before giving it a taste. YUM! And because I actually made it last night, I then put it in the refrigerator until this morning when I made my husband and myself our lunches.

Putting together the remainder of the salad was pretty simple, and only added about 10 minutes to my morning routine. I rinsed the lettuce, which I purchased from the local farmer's market this weekend, and gave it a rough chop. I then added a few heaping spoonfuls of the bulgar on top of the lettuce. Since it's almost time for me to go shopping again, my salad fixings were sparse, but if I had some in the house I would have also added tomato and cucumber, and maybe some dried fruit such as cranberries. I also added some sunflower seeds for their healthy fat content and high levels of vitamin E and magnesium, although almonds or walnuts would also be yummy. For added protein I included a hardboiled egg, although the bulgar does add a bit of protein on its own. Finally, I drizzled some hempseed oil over the top, which is a nutty tasting alternative to flaxseed oil and fish oil with additional health benefits (it does not contain THC). A little Greek yogurt or tzatziki sauce (cucumber and dill sauce), or even capers and olives would add a nice touch to this salad if you're looking for a little more variety.


p.s. For other great salad ideas, be sure to check out our Recipe Index! :)