Thursday, May 26, 2011

Respect the food (or, how I burnt the bulgur)

I honestly don't know why I was so cranky that morning. Maybe I hadn't had enough coffee. Maybe I hadn't had enough sleep. Maybe I was just cranky. Whatever the case, I walked into the kitchen  annoyed and snippy. The day didn't get much better from there. Out of sheer stupidity I cut myself opening a box by disregarding the cardinal rule of cutting away from oneself. Then I lost count counting out the schnitzels and had to start all over again and when it came time to cook the bulgur with lentils, I burnt the bulgur. I burnt it so badly that a good quarter of the pot wasn't serve-able and the other three quarters had a lovely smokey flavor. Then, as the second pot of bulgur was cooking, I realized that I had left out a package of lentils. "What the hell", I thought, "what harm could it do?" So I threw in the lentils. I'm sure you could all guess where this is going. Service that day featured smokey bulgur with undercooked lentils. Yum.
I burnt the bulgur because I'm not strong enough to reach all the way to the bottom of the pot when it's full to the brim with grains and water, but I also burnt the bulgur because I was cranky and annoyed and unwilling to ask for help. To channel Carla Hall of Top Chef- it's all about the love and respect you put into your food. And I don't mean that it the metaphysical sense- I simply mean that if you respect the food and the people you are feeding you will be attentive and contentious.  You will pay attention. Your food will reflect that. You will not disregard that burning smell, or under-cook the lentils. I try to keep that in mind. There will always be days when I'm cranky. There will always be days when I feel like nothing goes right. But when I'm in the kitchen I put that aside. My work in the kitchen is about food. It's about feeding people. It's about doing the things I love to do. My bad day can wait.

The following recipe is a mystery. I've been making it for years, but I have no idea where it's from. It's written on a yellowing piece of paper that gives no clue as to it's source. It is also the first thing I thought of when lentils and bulgur appeared on the menu in the kitchen. This is a great salad. It's herby  and light and a full meal all on it's own.  It anyone recognizes it and can tell me who to attribute it to, it would be much appreciated. As usual, feel free to play with the amounts in this recipe. Personally, I never really measure herbs. I just sort of grab as much as I can and chop.

Lentil and Bulgur Salad

1/2 cup brown or green lentils
1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
4 tbl olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp  cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 cup medium-grained bulgur
3 cups vegetable stock, or water
1/2 cup chopped mint
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2-3 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
lemon juice, to taste
yogurt, to serve

1. Soak lentils in cold water for one hour. Drain. Soak the red onion in water until ready to serve.

2. Put 1 tablespoon of oil into a large saucepan and heat over medium heat. Add the garlic, cook 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, cumin and cayenne. Cook 2-3 minutes until the tomatoes soften.

3. Add the bulgur, cook 3 minutes. Then add the liquid and lentils. Bring to a boil, cover and lower the heat. Simmer for 20-30 until the lentils are tender and the liquid is absorbed. Cool.

4. Toss herbs and lettuce with remaining olive oil and lemon juice. Mix in the bulgur-lentil mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with onions and yogurt.

Note: You may notice that the photograph above is missing one crucial ingredient- bulgur. This is because, as I was informed in the supermarket-"there is no bulgur." Why? Who knows. Perhaps I was under the mistaken assumption that supermarkets stock staples such bulgur. I guess I was wrong.


  1. I want to have this salad's babies!!! I tried making it for Shabat, but i don't think it came out like yours. :( It lacked something...Perhaps because i forgot the cayenne? I am going to have another crack at it, but nice post post, Tiks!

  2. Did you put in enough salt? I find that the salad always requires more salt than I think it does.