Last weekend we drove through the Oregon wine country and meandered down gravel roads, stopping at a few acres of land for sale and dreaming. Today I pulled weeds in the heat, serenaded by passing cars and a construction crew, and dreamed of tending a garden whose rows of potatoes wave quietly out of sight over a little knoll; of digging an asparagus trench; of giving winter squash plants and watermelon as much space as they could hope for. I listened to six ungrateful hens (uh, three, that is, city of Portland!) whining for more vegetal treats, and upon heeding the request, watched them scamper away from me in unfounded terror, as fast as their fluffy butts could take them. I dreamed of free ranging poultry of all sorts, eggs of all sizes, males to fertilize said eggs, and some sort of hired help to take care of all poop-and-predator-related issues that come with so many pets.
With dreams of the future so strong, I have to remember how much beauty and hope is around to be appreciated in “the now,” as those with more spirituality badges than I have tend to call “now.” (Have you noticed that ultra-special spiritual folks add extra words to normal phrases? “The now.” What in the name of all that’s good and plenty is that about?!) Whew, shake it off. I’m back, and more appreciative of beauty and hope than ever, or at least than before the previous little moment. Look at all this life growing!
After what’s officially going down in the annals of time as the Longest Winter Ever, we seem to have skipped spring, and the temperature around these parts has skyrocketed at the rate of the housing market. It’s evidenced (the temperature, not the rent increase) by salad for dinner, practically every night. There are spinach and radishes and green onions and mustard greens and kale and Asian greens a-plenty in the garden, and though I got a late start planting the salad bed, it’s full of burgeoning lettuce heads begging to be thinned and used as baby greens. Don’t fret, babies. I’ll eat you.
I really enjoy salad season. I’ve also been enjoying my cookbook addiction, which, from my perspective, seems like a tiny investment for the return of becoming a better cook.
Even with all this following instructions nonsense, I did invent Monday’s salad, though I attribute the vinaigrette, or at least the jumping off point of the vinaigrette, to Molly Wizenberg and her book, Delancey.
Bulgur is my new favorite thing. I know everyone uses it in tabbouleh and has since the beginning of farmed grains or something, but I’m new to using it and I LOVE it. It’s a grain you don’t even really have to tend to make chewy, nutty, and fabulous. In this recipe, I soaked about a cup and a half of it in just-boiled water, drained and rinsed it, refrigerated it, and waited for dinnertime to mix it with frozen roasted corn, baby greens, tons of fresh basil, some chopped mint, and thinly sliced shallots, which pickled a little bit in the vinaigrette. It’s vegan, it’s cooling, it’s my new favorite use for my new favorite grain.
Three-B salad (the “b”s are bulgur, basil, and baby greens)
1.5 C bulgur wheat
1 C frozen roasted corn, thawed (frankly, it was 90 degrees out and I didn’t thaw mine)
4 C assorted baby greens (I wouldn’t use kale, but do your thing)
1 C fresh basil, torn if leaves are large
15 large mint leaves, more if desired, cut in a chiffonade or thin strips
1/4 C sherry or red wine vinegar
3/4 C extra virgin olive oil
1 t dried basil
1 T fruit syrup, maple syrup, or sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Boil at least two cups of water, turn off the pot, and pour in the bulgur to soak for five to ten minutes, until you test the grain and it seems chewy, but not difficult to bite all the way through. Drain in a fine mesh sieve, rinse under cold water, drain again, and refrigerate until you assemble the salad.
Prepare the vinaigrette: Thinly slice the shallot, long-ways. Whisk together the vinegar, oil, dried basil, and salt and pepper. Start with a little bit of the sweetener and mix in up to a tablespoon. You don’t want it to taste sweet, but you want the bite of the vinegar to have its edge just taken off. Pour the mixture over the shallots in a small bowl or 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Take a few of the basil leaves from your measured cup and muddle them against the shallots and the side of the container the dressing is in. Let it sit for a few minutes while you assemble the salad.
In a large bowl, mix the bulgur with the baby greens, corn, basil, and mint. Stir in the shallots with some of the vinaigrette. Season to taste and use more of the vinaigrette if you’d like.
This would be awesome with roasted red peppers, with cherry tomatoes, and probably with feta or creamy goat cheese, but it’s fantastic served as is, and especially fantastic eaten outside with a chilled pinot blanc or white girl rose’ of your choice.