Bulgur Salad with Grapes, Cucumber, Orange and Mint

Grapes are not my favorite fruit. I don't dislike them to the point that I would pick them out of a fruit salad and, sure, I've been known to pop a few into my mouth from the party buffet...but I wouldn't think to sit down to a handful of them on a plate. So when a bunch of them ended up in my fridge, I had to think of a way to avoid watching them go bad.
Since my lease is up soon, I've been tackling the heaps of dry goods that I've been collecting in the cupboard over the past three years. The bag of bulgur wheat---requiring no cooking--seemed the perfect pick to use up on a hot summer day. I've recently discovered bulgur does a lot more than make limp, oily salad-bar tabbouleh. It makes a healthy, chewy and quick cold salad and I could toss in all the odds and ends of fruits, vegetables and herbs that were otherwise threatening to die a lonely death in the fridge. Those cold grapes seemed like a refreshing pair with cool cucumbers and cool mint---their sweetness tempered by the salad.

  • 1 C of bulgur (no.2) soaked in 2 C of boiling water for at least 30 minutes, drained
  • small bunch of green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 C chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/3 C chopped fresh mint
  • 3 small Persian cucumbers, peeled and chopped
  • couple handful of seedless grapes, halved
  • juice and zest of one lemon and one orange
  • few spoons of olive oil
  • 1 tsp coriander (or to taste--I like quite a bit more)
  • 1/2 tsp allspice (or to taste)
  • salt and pepper
Toss the first six ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the juice, zest, oil, and spices. Mix into the salad, season with salt and pepper. Let rest for a half hour for the dressing to soak in and serve chilled.

Greens baked with Egg, Sephardic Style

Last fall, my friend Mason and I split a CSA basket. While it was wonderful to be surprised with a bounty of fresh vegetables every other week, getting through them proved a challenge for the two of us. I started making this dish to deal with the surplus of kale, chard, and beet greens. Don't get me wrong--I love greens--but two people can only put away so many of them.
I adapted this recipe from Joyce Goldstein's "Tortino di Spinaci" from Sephardic Flavors. My family is Sephardic (Jews from Spain, N. Africa and the Middle East) and in the past couple years, I've started reading about and cooking traditional dishes. This dish seems to be a variation on a theme of various vegetables baked with varying amounts of eggs. I really love this concept--it's so versatile! You take what vegetables you have and bind them together with a little egg for a side dish or a lot of egg for a heartier meal.
I was re-inspired to cook this again after seeing Mark Bittman's piece in the New York Time's last week. Like the recipe he gives, this "tortoni" has only enough egg to bind it. Of course you can add more.
Anyways, the first time I made this, Mason and I devoured the whole thing like candy while it was cooling on the stovetop---first picking the leaves that had crisped on on top with our fingers, down through the custardy center spiked with raisins and nuts, to the cornmeal crust. The savory anchovy and caper marries with the sweetness of the fruit and onion, neither demanding center stage.

  • 1.5 lbs Spinach, beet greens, kale, chard, collard, any mix of these, tough stems removed and chopped. (Trader Joe's bagged "southern greens" makes this EASY!)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1-2 anchovy fillets, minced
  • 1T capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 2-2 T chopped flat leaf parsely
  • 2 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1/4 C chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 C raisins or currants, plumped in hot water and drained
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • salt, pepper, chili flakes
  • 1-2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Cornmeal for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 F. Oil an 8 x 11x2" baking dish or 2 qt casserole and dust it with cornmeal, which added a nice flavor. Rinse greens well and remove stems. Place greens in large saute pan with only the rinsing water clinging to the leaves and cook over med. heat, turning as needed, until wilted, just a few minutes. Empty the contents of the pan into a colander and drain well. Add the oil to the now-empty pan along with the onion and cook until browned. Add the anchovies, parsley, capers, & garlic. Place over med. heat and saute 2 min. Return the drained greens to the pan, mix well, and fold in nuts and raisins, and vinegar. Season with salt, pepper, and chili flakes (if desired). Remove from heat. Fold the eggs into the greens mixture and turn it into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle some more cornmeal on top and bake until lightly golden, ~ 30 min. serve hot.

Whole Grain Mustard

My roommate brought home a delicious jar of fancy mustard from a local restaurant.  I was putting it on everything and eating straight off the spoon. As I read through the ingredients on the label--mustard seeds, some kind of booze, and some kind of vinegar-- I figured it wouldn't be too difficult to make my own and for much less than the $10 stores charge.  I also liked the idea of switching up the liquid ingredients to compliment a cuisine--the same way you would pair a wine with a meal.

Every now and again I'll have the opportunity to remember that I really like Blue Moon beer.  I wanted to make a mustard that matched. Blue Moon is brewed with coriander and orange peel so I let those be the key flavors in my mustard.  After doing a little reading, I found that mustard recipes are pretty flexible as long as you make sure to let the mustard seeds sit  submerged in the liquid you are using in a non-reactive container  for 48 hours...and then let the finished mustard sit in the fridge for several days to mellow out before eating it.

Most recipes are a variation on this:

3/4 mustard seeds (usually 1/4 yellow and 1/2 brown)
1.5 C alcohol and vinegar (usually 1/2 C wine or sherry and 1 C red/white wine vinegar...or 1 C of beer and 1/2 C vinegar)
2 T sugar
≥1 T spices/peppercorns
maybe some oil or mustard flour (which will increase the heat!!)

This is what I did:
1/4 C yellow mustard seeds
1/2 C brown mustard seeds
1 C beer (this leaves about 4 oz to drink!)
1/2 C white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
2 T honey
1.5 T whole coriander seeds
the peel of 1/3 orange, pith removed and cut into fine strips

Soak the mustard seeds in the beer and vinegar in a non-reactive container (glass, ceramic, tupperware) for two whole days.  Top it off if too much liquid evaporates.

Then add the other ingredients, put it all in a food processor and blend until it's creamy.  I like to see some whole seeds, so I don't totally puree it.

Then put it in jars, put it in the fridge and wait.  The first time I made mustard, despite the warnings, I couldn't resist the temptation to taste early.  It was a mistake.  The mustard seeds really need the time to hang out to lose their unpleasant pungency.  Just wait a few days.  I've found that the mustard continues to improve after sitting for over a week.

After you wait, then you can eat it (with beer) on bread with cheese, on meat, in a dressing...it is also very good mixed with melted butter and poured on steamed broccoli!
I think for my next batch I'll experiment with sake as my base.....