Lately, whatever it is that Russ Parson writes about for the LA Times is what I want to cook. There was the story about eggs for dinner and then the one about comparing vegetable dishes from Plenty and A Year in My Kitchen. Most recently, it was a story about grain salads. I know, that might not sound terribly exciting, but he went about describing ways to put vegetables and grains together and how to cook different grains for salad use, and I was hooked. It helped that I already really liked grain salads, but the three specific recipes included in the story were all great for light, summer meals. I picked the bulgur salad because it was a chance to do something new and different with zucchini. Here, that new and different thing was actually leaving the zucchini raw. It was chopped, salted, allowed to drain, and then rinsed, dried, and added to the salad. Another new and different thing in this recipe was toasting the bulgur wheat. I usually use bulgur for tabbouleh, and I always just add boiling water and let it soak. Parsons suggested toasting the bulgur in a dry pan first and then pouring water into the hot pan and leaving the bulgur to soak. The flavor difference was big, and I’ll be toasting bulgur from now on.
So, toasting the bulgur only takes about five minutes and is probably easier than boiling water. The bulgur was placed in a dry saute pan over medium-high heat and was left for about five minutes. Cold water was added to the hot pan, the bulgur was stirred, and it was left to soften. It could take about an hour for the bulgur to soften, but mine was ready in about 35 minutes. Meanwhile, a couple of zucchini were chopped into big chunks and placed in a colander. The zucchini was liberally salted and left to drain. After 30 minutes, it was rinsed and dried. To make the salad, the bulgur was placed in a big mixing bowl with minced onion, the zucchini, lemon juice, olive oil, arugula leaves, and toasted pine nuts. Once combined, the salad was ready.
It’s a fresh and light salad, but the bulgur and pine nuts give it some heft. And, don’t think for a minute that this is just a boring, whole grain, healthy dish. The onion and lemon give it zing, the zucchini and pine nuts bring crunch, and toasting the bulgur added even nuttier flavor from the grain. The flesh of the salted and rinsed zucchini had become a little softer than when raw but it mostly retained its texture. I’m looking forward to getting creative with more toasted grain and fresh vegetable combinations or maybe whatever Russ Parsons writes about next.