Saturday, October 6, 2012

Warm vegetable salad with bulgar

It seems very odd (and more than a little sad) that my last post was written in the English Midlands, whilst this one is being written - only a few days later - at home in Western Australia. Air travel is a mind-blowing thing sometimes.

Air travel is also quite an exhausting thing. We were lucky with our flights and connections back, with everything running smoothly and even some sleep occurring on the longer (10.5 hour) flight. Nonetheless, I think you'll understand when I say that I was glad to get off the plane at the end.

I was also glad to be able to dive into fresh produce today. This trip was remarkably successful in terms of fruit and vegetable consumption, but a solid day of car and plane travel still left me wanting more.

It also left me wanting something that could be prepared quickly, which is where this dish came in. 

This warm salad has a base of bulgar, which is a wheat-based whole grain that forms the basis of Middle Eastern tabbouleh salad. It packs 25g of fibre and 17g of protein per 100g, considerably more than the 2g of fibre and 7g of protein found in white rice. Bulgar also has a relatively low glycemic index (=48) and all in all, it can be viewed as a worthwhile alternative to rice, quinoa and other grains.

I bought this bulgar many, many months ago. I then spent many, many months looking at it and wondering what to make. I do this sort of thing far more often than I'd like to admit. Today, refreshed by my own bed and in the process of re-introducing myself to my kitchen, I decided to make this.

Warm vegetable salad with bulgar
Serves 3 - 4

1 cup fine-grained uncooked bulgar (you could also use larger sizes; if so, adjust the cooking time for the bulgar as recommended for the size you use)
1 large yellow capsicum (pepper), sliced
1 medium zucchini, sliced
2 medium carrots, chopped
~10 cherry tomatoes, halved
4 tbsp lemon juice
2 1/2 tsp agave
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil

Oil, as needed, for cooking vegetables

Rinse and drain the bulgar, then set aside while you prepare the vegetables.

Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat and saute the capsicum, zucchini and carrot for 5 - 10 minutes. 

While the vegetables are cooking, combine the lemon juice, agave, dried oregano and dried basil in a cup or shallow dish. Stir to combine. Pour half over the vegetables as they are cooking and set the remainder aside.

When the carrot is starting to soften (after ~10 minutes of cooking), reduce the heat and add the halved cherry tomatoes to the vegetable mix. 

In a separate saucepan, add 2 cups of water to the 1 cup of bulgar. Cover and bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to stand in the saucepan for a further 4 minutes.

Combine the vegetables and bulgar and top with the remaining lemon dressing.

I found the bulgar to be slightly nutty in taste, and similar to cous-cous in texture. It has no bitter aftertaste and was light and fluffy despite its high fibre content. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to prepare, and now that I have used it once, I can see myself using it regularly in salads and side dishes.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the overall dish. It has such a simple ingredient list that I expected an enjoyable but rather standard salad at the end. Instead, the lemon dressing paired perfectly with the sweetness of the vegetables, resulting in flavours that were fresh but also intricate, natural but sweet, and subtle but varied. The tomatoes were added on the spur of the moment but now seem crucial to the overall result, giving a slight tartness that worked to offset and improve the other vegetables.

The vegetables could, of course, be paired with any number of bases and used in any number of ways. I imagine they would work very well as a filling for wraps or just as a straight up side dish.

For this week, though, I am happy to pair them with bulgar and I can see this salad playing a starring role in my first work lunches for over a month.

This post is part of my Vegan Month of Food contributions for October 2012.

Do you enjoy bulgar, or have any favourite recipe uses for it?


  1. I love how you can't even see the bulghur for all the vegetables. My kinda dish!

    And, with that, I'm off to eat mega mega huge and mega mega delicious salad with Gena. Hurrah! :)

    1. Teehee, I was wondering how many people would notice that :P I kind of heaped the vegetables on top of the bulgar in my first bowl which meant it was less salad and more layers.

      And hurrah indeed for mega huge and mega delicious salads!

  2. looks like a great, healthy dish!

  3. this is one of those simple things that looks amazing and makes me wonder why i don't eat that way more often

  4. I'm ashamed to admit that I only use it in Tabbouleh but now I want to try it with your gorgeous salad.

    1. Don't be too ashamed Maureen, because I have never used it in tabbouleh!

  5. awwww, don't be sad...that's wat all those awesome memories are for. plus i kno we're all happy to have u back...bwhaha. :) but i kno wat u mean, just look forward to ur next trip wherever that may be! okay, bulgar, u kno me girl, i am NO use offering up recipes. but it looks super tasty on ur end!

  6. Yum! Looks absolutely scrumptious.

  7. It looks like a lovely healthy meal! I haven't eaten bulgar much and don't keep it in the pantry. I am planning to make a recipe that calls for it but will try using quinoa as a replacement instead.

    1. Quinoa is definitely quite close in my (novice) view, although they are distinguishable of course. I'll look forward to seeing your recipe that calls for it but has quinoa instead!

  8. YUM!
    I love bulgur but seemto forget about it. I need to throw it in the mix. This salad is a great way to do it! :)

    1. I love it now I have discovered it! I hope I can remember it for long enough to make more dishes :)

  9. I don't use bulgar wheat enough either - but I think hopping off a plane is a great way to look at your kitchen anew (and to be willing to eat any food and know it will be far better than what you had on the plane)

  10. There's no doubt about it, long-haul flights really do knock you around. But...normally the trip itself is so worth it. Welcome home to wedding bliss xx


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