Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Trust in Salad. And Also Husbands.

Last week, the creative wellspring for Awesome-Yet-Quick Dinner Ideas had run dry. I half-heartedly clicked through the recipes saved in my browser and thumbed a few cookbooks. Nothing. Not a single recipe caught my eye or made me interested in picking up a knife.

Finally, I grabbed the copy of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's newest cookbook River Cottage Every Day from the pile on my desk and plunked it down in front of Scott.

"Pick," I said. "Anything. Just pick a recipe for us to eat this week. Please."

Dear husband that he is, he did. And wowzers did he pick well.

This cookbook River Cottage Every Day is one of the best to grace my kitchen in a very long while. It's fun and playful (cartoon doodles all over the pages of pirates, catapulting strawberries, and the like take care of that), and the food is simple and appealing. But best of all, it's not boring. All the flavors are familiar - earthy grains, fresh spring peas, braised beef, tart rhubarb - but Fearnley-Whittingstall makes every dish seem somehow more. He's magical, I think.

Scott picked this recipe for Tabula Kisir, a sort of reverse tabbouleh with more vegetables and a zesty tomato sauce. At first, I was dismayed. Of all the fabulous recipes in this book, he picked tabbouleh? But on second glance, I saw the toasted walnuts that get tossed with parsley, mint, and dill - the trifecta of summertime herbs. I saw the intriguing sauce of lemon juice and tomato paste blended with cumin and paprika. I saw that we could stuff the salad into fresh pita bread.

And then Scott innocently offered the coup de resistance: we could top everything off with a few hard-boiled eggs.

Turns out I should trust both my husband and Mr. Fearnley-Whittingstall. They obviously know what they're talking about.
My Notes on the Recipe:

Instead of the bulgur, I substituted the same amount of barley in this recipe. This is because I love barley to bits...and also maybe because I had no bulgur and didn't want to go to the store. Other than that, I followed the recipe exactly. It's a lot of chopping, but then the salad itself comes together quickly.

I am in love with that combination of parsley, mint, and dill. They're all such strong herbs individually that I was worried they'd just end up a muddled mess when thrown together. Again, I should just trust Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. The parsley and dill got along together like best buds, accentuating each other's best features. The mint is surprisingly subdued and adds just the right perky note of sweetness every now and then.

For dinner, we stuffed the salad inside fresh-made pitas (get the recipe on The Kitchn HERE) along with the hard-boiled eggs. After we ran out of pita, we ate it with a slice of bread alongside.

Tabula Kisir
From River Cottage Every Day by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Serves 4-6

1 cup bulgur wheat
1/3 cup walnuts
12 ounces ripe tomatoes
3 to 4 green onions, top green part discarded
1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded
1 green bell pepper, cored and seeded
5 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill

For the dressing:
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons canola or extra-virgin olive oil

To serve:
Pita bread and/or Little Gem or romain lettuce

Place the bulgur wheat in a large bowl, pour over 3/4 cup boiling water, stir, and then cover and leave for 20 minutes. The bulgur should retain some bite at this stage. (For barley, I usually boil it like pasta in a large a mount of salted water and strain it when tender to the bite.)

Meanwhile, make the dressing. Mix together hte lemon juice, tomato paste, pepper flakes, cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper, then whisk in the oil. Pour the dressing over the warm bulgur (or barley!) and stir well. Let cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees F. Put the walnuts in a pie pan and toast in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until fragrant. Let cool and then chop coarsely.

Meanwhile, core, seed, and dice the tomatoes. Slice the green onions finely, and cut the peppers into dice.

Once the bulgur is cool, combine it with the tomatoes, peppers, green onions, walnuts, and herbs. Let stand for at least 20 minutes so the flavors can mingle, then taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, and/or pepper flakes if you like. Serve with pita bread and/or lettuce leaves.

(Recipe Copyright (c) 2009 by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, published by Ten Speed Press)


  1. i want that salad in my belly.

  2. Sounds fabulous!!! Now I wonder if I could get my picky man to eat this. May have to try it when I have time to devote to the chopping. (Also, hi!!)

  3. @ninascraps - Hi! Try the hardboiled egg approach on this one. As in, "Hey, look! Eggs for dinner! And they just happen to be on top of this salad! Wow!"