March 22, 2011 § 4 Comments
Bulgar? Bulgur? Bulghur? However you spell it, society at large has been hiding this absolutely spectacular whole-grain from me. If you are to believe movies such as The Adjustment Bureau, the men behind the curtains controlling my life have seen to it that bulgur shall never be placed in front of me. Ever. Never had it. Never saw it. Was never even tempted.
That is, until one Sunday morning a few months ago. I was tidying up the house with Food Network on in the background and Ba-Da-Boom Nigella Lawson made a bulgur dish to accompany a Moroccan meal. And if Nigella likes it, well … I gotta give this stuff a try.
Forget for a moment it’s a whole grain and nutritious and etc. It tastes good! It’s got a great consistency! And it plays well with others. In today’s recipe—and yesterday’s, too, actually—bulgur plays really well with lentils. So well, it’s like they are playing doctor, if you know what I mean.
This recipe is from the Moosewood Cookbook. I’ve eaten at the Moosewood, by the way, back in the mid 90s. And it’s true what they say—terrific food, the service coulda been better (they didn’t place my order. At. All. And that was just one of many examples). But, seriously good food. And if you can chop, you can make this stuff.
I made this for the first time Sunday. And my first reaction after tasting was, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? I just made this from that stuff??” I’m not kidding you, this stuff is taste on a plate.
A coupla notes: 1) Omit the feta and it’ll be vegan. 2) Serve at room temp – it has better flavor. 3) Stuff it in pita … yum. 4) I didn’t add the olives. I don’t think I had any and I forgot in general. 5) It’s a perfect protein. Oh yeah.
- 1 cup dry lentils (use green!)
- 2 cups water
Put lentils in small saucepan. Add water (and a pinch of salt). Bring to just boiling. Turn heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 20-25 minutes until tender but not mushy. Drain well and place in a large bowl.
- 1 cup dry bulgur wheat
- 1 cup boiling water
Place bulgur in a small bowl. Boil a cup of water (microwave is fine) then add it to the bulgur. Give it a swirl. Cover the bowl with a plate. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes. That’s it.
Now comes choppin’ time. Add all of this to the lentils:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup lemon juice (I used juice of one lemon)
- 2 medium cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 2 tbsp freshly minced (or 2 tsp dried) mint (do not skip this!)
- 2-3 tbsp freshly minced (or 2-3 tsp dried) dill
- fresh black pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup freshly minced parsley (I broke off a hunk of my frozen parsley)
- 1/3 cup minced red onion
- 1 small bell pepper
- 1/2 stalk celery, minced
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta
- 1/2 cup nicoise olives (oops, forgot those)
Stir those around and add the bulgur, too. Now add:
- 1 medium tomato, diced
- 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
Fold that around. Give it a taste.
Right? I TOLD you. That’s flavor that’ll make your Greek grandmother weep.
March 21, 2011 § 6 Comments
So, about that two-thirds vegan diet … Oh, no worries, we’re still on it and still successful. Yay us! There is one small side effect, however, that I need to address. I get a vacant-minded, mad-hungry feeling around lunch time, and no matter how much I eat, I’m still kinda not all there. I’m thinking I may need more protein around then.
I’m no nutritionist, but I do know that a not-so-magical combination of certain beans and grains form a perfect (or close to it) protein. Do red beans and rice stave off the protein cravings enough so you don’t go chasing the nearest cow? I’m pretty sure they do.
In search of a protein-packed lunch option, two recipes found their way to me. The first just happened to be one of many Turkish recipes found in last Wednesday’s Boston Globe. Middle Easterners boy, do they know how to make huge flavors in vegan meals. Below is the recipe with a few changes as noted.
Turkish Red Lentil Soup (Ezogelin in Turkish)
- 2 tbs butter (I used a couple swigs olive oil)
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 tbs tomato paste (what to do with the rest of the can? freeze it)
- 1/2 cup bulgar wheat
- 2/3 cup red lentils
- 7 cups chicken stock (we used veggie stock)
- 3 tbs dried mint (couldn’t find any! so we used minced fresh, about 3tbs)
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
- salt & pepper to taste
-In a soup pot over medium heat, heat up butter or oil. Cook up onion until softened, about 5 min. Stir in tomato paste until blended in – 30-60 sec.
-Add bulgur, lentils and stock. Boil then simmer on low heat, pot covered. Let it simmer for about 30 min until lentils and bulgur are tender.
-Add mint, thyme, red pepper, salt and black pepper and simmer a few more minutes to meld the flavors.
Use RED lentils, not green. Red lentils tend to break down further than green, creating more of a mush or, when in a soup, it’s more of a thickener. You can use green but, well … I wouldn’t, not for this soup.
We actually had this last night for dinner, served with hunks of fresh bread (I’m still baking!) and a side of lentil-bulgur salad—another high-protein dish. I’ll give you that recipe tomorrow. That is a seriously tasty salad.
March 14, 2011 § 2 Comments
It turns out—now that we are paying attention—a number of our on-hand recipes are vegan. While it’s nice to cruise online looking for appropriate recipes for our new two-thirds vegan lifestyle, we need only turn to our own recipe collection to find something without meat, fish, dairy, etc.
Jennifer’s Red Lentil Soup with Spinach, for example. She collected this recipe from a local adult-ed class on soup making she attended 10-15 years ago. She just recently found it again, after I had made a batch of the Moosewood lentil soup. Lentils are pretty friggin’ amazing, if you ask me. It’s my favorite dry bean, if only because you don’t have to soak it any more than 30 minutes, which you can easily incorporate into the cooking process (see below). The addition of the spinach is inspired, tasty and I am sure, good for you, as well.
- 1-2 TBS evoo
- 1 onion
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 2 ribs celery, diced
- 1 cup red lentils, rinsed (I guess green would be fine, too)
- 4-5 cups water
- 1/2 tsp EACH of thyme, oregano, basil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 lb. spinach or Swiss chard, torn into pieces
-Saute the onion in the oil over medium heat. Add the carrots and celery and saute another few minutes until just soft.
-Add the herbs, lentils and 4 cups of the water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 30-40 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking on the bottom. If it’s too thick for your liking, add up to a cup of water.
-When lentils are soft, add the salt and spinach. Stir. Cook for another 2 minutes.
Jennifer likes to add a swirl of sherry vinegar on top of her bowl of soup. I add a dash of balsamic vinegar. Try it without the vinegar first, then with the vinegar. The addition really pulls out the flavor of the lentils and adds an acidic brightness. You’ll also want to keep a slice or two of fresh bread on hand for dunking.
You may want to double the batch. This soup is even better in subsequent days, and is nice as your vegan lunch dish.