Sunday, July 14, 2019

Bulgur topped with a Medley of Marinated Cherry Tomatoes, Chickpeas, Fennel & Feta

Last Sunday I finally got around to looking through some of my summer food magazines.  I don’t get to them as often as I like, but they always provide inspiration when I do. This time, among other things, I noticed a pasta salad in the July/August issue of Martha Stewart Living, filled with things I love:  Cherry Tomatoes, Fresh Fennel, Chickpeas & Capers.  Since I had fresh fennel and cherry tomatoes on hand…and I’m always in the mood for pasta…I decided I would try it this week.

I finally got to it on Friday evening.  I had every intention of making the pasta exactly as written, but when dinner time rolled around, I wasn’t really in the mood for pasta (shocking… I know…).   I decided that what I really wanted was a grain salad…and that bulgur would be delicious with all the flavors of the “sauce” from the original recipe.

Then, as I was preparing the medley of marinated vegetables, I decided that they were so beautiful…and so tasty on their own…that I really didn’t want to fold them into the bulgur.  Instead, I decided to use the bulgur as a bed for a big pile of the marinated vegetables…sort of like a streamlined grain bowl.  It was delicious.  And just what I was hungry for.

Bulgur with a Medley of Marinated Cherry Tomatoes,
 Chickpeas, Fennel & Feta

2 T. olive oil
1 small red onion (4 to 5 oz.), finely diced (you will have about 1 c. diced onion)
kosher salt
1 fat clove garlic, minced
1 t. fennel seed, crushed with a mortar & pestle
2 t. dried oregano
1 c. (6 oz.) medium bulgur, rinsed and drained
1 1/4 c. boiling water

Marinated Vegetables:
1 pint (2/3 lb.) cherry tomatoes, quartered (halved, if small)
3 T. capers
1/2 c. pitted Kalamata olives (about 24), halved
2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 c. flat leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed, halved, cored & thinly sliced/shaved crosswise using a mandolin
4 oz. Feta, drained and cut into scant 1/2-inch cubes

Warm 2 T. olive oil in a medium saucepan with a tight fitting lid over moderate heat.  Add the onions along with a pinch of salt and sweat until tender and translucent.  Add the garlic, fennel & oregano and cook until fragrant—about a minute.  Increase the heat to medium high and add the drained bulgur along with a generous pinch of salt.  Continue to cook for a minute.  Add the water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and cook, covered until the bulgur is tender—12 to 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let stand (covered) for 5 minutes.  Scrape the finished bulgur onto a baking sheet and let cool to room temperature.

While the bulgur cooks and cools, make the medley of marinated vegetables.  Place all the ingredients in a bowl and fold together.  Season to taste with salt & pepper. 

To serve, spoon the room temperature bulgur onto a platter or individual plates, spreading out a bit and making a small divot in the center to hold the vegetables.  Mount the vegetables on top of the bulgur, making sure to get all of the liquid.  Drizzle with more olive oil, if you like.  Serves 4 as a light entrée.   

Notes & Suggestions:
  • If you like, you may of course just combine the vegetables and bulgur and serve as a bulgur salad. The bulgur will absorb the juices, making a delicious grain salad.
  • Even though I wasn’t in the mood for pasta when I made this, I’m sure that the vegetable mixture would be delicious on pasta for a pasta salad. Use 1 pound of gemelli, fusilli or cavatappi, cooked al dente and spread on a sheet pan to cool (rather than rinsing).

For those who might be preparing this for a household of one or two…and who only want to make half of a recipe (which is what I did), let me suggest a fantastic use for your remaining half can of chickpeas from Ottolenghi’s Simple: Chickpeas and Swiss Chard with Yogurt. If you like Mediterranean food and you shop at the farmer’s market or are a member of a CSA, it is likely you already have everything you need. I served it with Basmati Rice and warm flatbread. It was delicious. If you have the book, it’s on page 100. If not, the Guardian posted the recipe last year.

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