Thursday, December 10, 2009

Winter Salad

This month's Martha Stewart Everyday Food is full of fantastic early winter soups and one-dish meals. Earlier this week, I picked the last of my kale from under the drifts of the first snow to make the wonderful lentil and kale soup from the magazine. But I'm still ready to eat salad, so I transformed Martha's "Bulgur with roasted red peppers, chickpeas, and spinach" from a warm vegetarian dinner into a delicious hearty winter lunch salad. I packed it for Blanca and myself, and like most grain salads it just got better overnight and through to lunchtime. The leftovers stored beautifully for a day. They might have lasted longer but we didn't give them a chance. A few tips, though. Bulgur, like any grain, can get stale. You might be able to hide stale bulgur in a soup, but here it's quite important to use fresh bulgur. Also, baby spinach has a flavor and texture that are quite different from the big spinach, and also baby spinach grows quickly enough and in cool weather well enough that it can still be found local and seasonal now!

Bulgur Winter Salad

1 cup bulgur
2 red bell peppers
1 can chickpeas, drained
2 cups baby spinach
6 oz. feta cheese
2 T olive oil

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add bulgur and remove from heat. Soak, covered, for 30 minutes. Then, drain in a mesh seive for 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, roast the red peppers. Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds. Place, cut-side down, on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Put under a high broiler for 10-15 minutes, until the skins are quite black. Remove from heat and put into a bowl. Cover tightly with the foil and let them steam in the bowl for another 10-20 minutes. Then, pull the peppers from the bowl, remove the blackened skin, and cut into 1" squares.

Heat the olive oil in a pan. Put in the chickpeas and saute, stirring often, until they just begin to brown, 5-10 minutes. Remove them from the heat, pout them onto a paper towel. Toss with coarse salt and gently wrap with the paper towel.

Make a white balsamic vinaigrette by whisking together 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper.

Toss the bulgur, roasted red peppers, and chickpeas with the vinaigrette. Ideally, at this point you will be able to set it aside for a few hours and up to overnight.

Just before serving, or just before packing into lunches, mix in the spinach and crumbled feta.