Monday, April 11, 2011

Spring Tabbouleh

It is so good to be back.

I instituted a self-imposed blogging hiatus because I needed to put most of my time and energy into studying for my second comprehensive exam, which I sat (and passed) last week. For those of you not in a PhD programme, or not friends with one of us grad-school nerds, comps are tests devised by faculty to torture us under the pretense of testing our knowledge of our chosen field of study. This exam went something like this: Spend six months reading 60 books. Have three short meetings in which each of my three supervisors tells me I will be fine. Attempt to review with a broken computer and twelve other time-sensitive things to do. Enter exam room and get extremely nervous. Manage to sound semi-coherent for two hours (with occasional prompts to remind me of what not-so-brilliant thought I was awkwardly expressing but had just forgotten). Pass and heave enormous sigh of relief. Drink copiously in celebration of passing the exam and turning twenty-nine.

And oh, how I missed posting to the blog. I was still cooking, albeit in a limited way (I perfected a five minute miso and noodle bowl, which I ate probably 5 nights a week; I'll post the recipe soon), but aside from not having the time, I couldn't bring myself to write posts that featured photos taken with my old 7 megapixel point-and-shoot. You see, I knew that I had a brand new Canon Rebel T2i stashed away at Alexis's place awaiting my vanquishing of the exam. I've been wanting a digital SLR for ages, and when the one I had my eye on went on sale, I had to buy it even though I knew I wouldn't have time to use it yet. While I bought the camera for me, I really bought it more for the blog. It's my investment in this site, and in my desire to improve my food styling and photography skills. And considering that this blog is the beginning of my Plan B--my alternate career in food should the academic thing not work out, which considering the job market, it very well may not--it was a necessary investment. But aside from any practical reasons for the purchase, I'm just excited to take pictures that look as good as they taste.

Now that the exam is behind me, in all sorts of ways it's finally spring around here. The school year is done. The blog, and my love of cooking, are blooming. It was 20 degrees and humid as hell today. My found-on-the-side-of-the-road bike is getting fixed up and ready for picnics on the island and jaunts to the St. Lawrence Market. The farmer's markets will open soon, and the trees out my window are taking on the pea-green haze that precedes an explosion of leaves. At the grocery store, all I want is green, green, and more green: kale, zucchini, fresh peas, edamame, asparagus, green beans, broccoli, basil, leeks.

To satisfy my craving for all things verdant, I decided to make the greenest thing I could think of: a riff on tabbouleh that includes as much green as you care to add. It's another one of those infinitely variable recipes, but this time I added ribbons of zucchini, their creamy ruffles edged in deep green, spears of asparagus, with purple-tinged heads, vibrant edamame the colour of tree buds, crisp green beans that squirt chlorophyll as you bite into them, and mounds of pungent green onion and fresh basil. It's dressed with a super simple walnut and lemon vinaigrette--because lemon and green go together like peas in a pod--and topped with some toasted walnuts for good measure and some extra crunch. It's just what I need to start out a spring of good living, and good eating.

Spring Tabbouleh
Serves 6-8

1 cup fine bulgur (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1 bunch asparagus, woody ends trimmed* and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup green beans, topped, tailed, and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 medium zucchini, shaved into ribbons with a vegetable peeler or mandoline
1/2 cup edamame (about 1 1/2 cups in the pods)
1 bunch green onions, green parts only, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 large bunch basil, roughly torn or chopped
1 tbsp roasted walnut oil
Zest and juice of one lemon
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1/2 tsp sea salt
Pepper to taste

In a large bowl, pour enough boiling water over the bulgur to just cover. Let stand for 15-20 minutes, then pour off any excess water and fluff with a fork. Leave the bulgur somewhat moist, as this will loosen the dressing and help it coat everything evenly.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, and when boiling, add the asparagus. Remove with a large slotted spoon about 20-30 seconds after the water has come back to the boil; rinse briefly under cold water to cool, and add to the bulgur.

Repeat with the green beans.

Add all of the remaining ingredients, toss to combine, and taste. You might find that you want more lemon juice, or more salt. Serve at room temperature, or cold.

Note: If you want this salad to have more protein, add a cup or more of cooked white kidney beans or navy beans along with the other ingredients before tossing. You can also top with crumbled hard-boiled egg.

* I find the best way to remove the woody ends of asparagus is not the old snapping method that most of us know. Instead, begin at the very end of the spear, where it has been cut from the ground, and hit it with the blade of your knife, fairly firmly. Continue up the spear at 1/2 cm or so intervals, until your blade slices through the spear and hits your cutting board. The woody part of the asparagus is too tough for the knife to easily pass through, so you know that once your knife cuts through it, you've removed the tough end. I find you lose a lot less of the asparagus this way.

Inspired by Heidi Swanson's Spring Tabbouleh recipe from 101 Cookbooks.


  1. Ah, how I've missed the colour green. I'm eagerly awaiting the appearance of garlic scapes at the market.

    Welcome back!