Monday, 13 June 2011 | 4 comments

Colorful lentil & bulgur salad

As I write this, I’m keeping vigil on the back deck. Every once in awhile, I venture from the glow of the laptop screen and descend the three stairs down into my little city garden, and peer down at two dishes full of beer nestled in a cluster of greens.

I should explain. About a month ago, I checked on my fledgling collard greens, which up until that point had been the most verdant, happy plants in the garden. Overnight, the biggest leaves had been turned to lace—-munched away so that only the veins of the leaves remained. The next morning, two more leaves gone. And again, the following morning. After some desperate consultation with the garden experts (Louise and…Google), I was pretty sure I had a slug problem.

One of the ways to get rid of the little suckers is to put out low dishes of beer. Slugs, who evidently like a party, call all their slug friends (“Beer in the collard patch! Woo!”), slink into the beer, drink themselves silly and drown. The first night was a smashing success—four slugs. Two more the next night. But more collard leaves continued to disappear. I ran out in the early morning hours last Friday to check, and saw a slug climbing out of the beer and continuing on his merry way. To my collards, I can only presume.

So here I am, paranoid vigilant, checking every half hour and trying to nab slugs before they further decimate my collard crop. And lest you think I’m the worst food writer ever, juxtaposing slugs and photos of things you actually eat, let me assure you that there’s a point: this week, I wanted to share a green salad. The kind that’s driven by garden and market, the way I most love to cook. But I was counting on some young collards for that salad.

Unwilling to let something invertebrate ruin my plans, I took the situation as an opportunity to dive into Molly Katzen‘s charming The New Moosewood Cookbook. Perpetually one of those people who is very last on the bandwagon, I picked this up at a favorite used bookstore last week without realizing that the Moosewood books have been a cult classic since before I was born. Mostly, I was just taken in by the handwritten recipes, the warm writing, and the hand-drawn diagrams that make you feel as if you’re reading a recipe your friend copied down for you.

I happened to have most of the ingredients around, and improvised where I didn’t. It’s a nice pantry-cleaning recipe, too—you could substitute other grains and pulses for the lentils and bulgur, but I would recommend trying it out this way first. Lentils and bulgur wheat aren’t necessarily something I’d think to put together on my own, but the texture is fantastic. Lastly, I had made some quick-pickled bell peppers left over from Memorial Day, and used those instead of fresh peppers—a good choice. The salad makes a perfect meal for a June evening with some toasted pita bread and a cool glass of white wine, sans slimy visitors.

Colorful lentil & bulgur salad

Adapted liberally from Mollie Katzen’s The New Moosehead Cookbook
Katzen writes that this is “similar to tabouli, but more complex”, and it really is. Don’t skimp on the herbs here—think of them more as salad greens than herbs for seasoning. In place of the fresh bell pepper, I used some bell pepper quick-pickles I had around, and it really added a nice vinegar-y kick. See similar recipes for bell pepper pickles here and here.

You will need

    1 cup dry lentils
    2 cups water

    1 cup dry whole wheat bulgur
    1 cup boiling water

    4 tablespoons olive oil
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 tablespoon fresh oregano or marjoram, minced
    2 tablespoons fresh mint, minced
    3 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
    1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced, plus more for garnish
    1/3 cup minced red onion
    2 stalks celery, finely chopped
    1 bell pepper, chopped
    1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
    Black pepper to taste

    1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts


    In a medium-sized saucepan, cover lentils with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer without too much stirring for 20-25 minutes, or until tender. Drain if necessary, then transfer to a big bowl.

    While the lentils are cooking, place the bulgur in a bowl or saucepan and add the boiling water. Cover with a plate or lid, and let stand 10-15 minutes while you’re chopping other ingredients.

    Add everything to the big bowl with the lentils except the walnuts. Toss gently but thoroughly. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

    Before serving, top with the toasted walnuts. Serve with toasted pita bread.

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§ 4 responses to Colorful lentil & bulgur salad

  • This salad looks lovely and fresh. I’ll have to see if I can find some herbs worthy of it at the market. I’m not as fortunate as you to have garden space–slugs or not! I’ve never actually made bulgur before, though I’m sure I’ve had it out. What’s it like?

    • Try growing herbs in pots on your windowsill! That’s what I did in my last apartment. It kills me how much they cost in a grocery store, and things like thyme and parsley are so easy to grow. And yes—I’d take the slugs over not having a garden :)
      Bulgur takes on a texture kind of like cous cous, but with bigger grains that are nuttier and chewier. Definitely try that, too.

  • I love the colorful salad. I’m glad I stumbled upon your lovely blog (via Saveur). I sure will return to enjoy the posts – I see you travel a lot.

    I made a similar colorful salad with lentils and veggies, minus the bulgur. You can see it here:

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