Tabbouleh Salad

Okay, so maybe it’s below freezing outside today.  And maybe it will be in the single digits a few times this week.  That doesn’t mean I can’t make a summery salad of awesome, right?

I went into dinner prep last night a little bit worried.  You see, the recipe calls for a lot of parsley.  A lot of parsley.  But I can safely say from the other side of the experience that it’s tasty.  So tasty that I’ll even eat this salad without the suggested pita wrapping.  You know it’s a good salad if I’ll eat it without a recommended serving of carbs on the side.

What is this wonder?  It’s tabbouleh salad, found in Mad Hungry Men (still a great cookbook).

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photo from marthastewart.com

salad in bowl

bright, colorful, and a bit messier than Martha’s version

This is how I made it…

Tabbouleh Salad (with Chicken)

Serves 4 hungry people, more if portions are dainty.  Takes about 20 minutes to prepare.

  • 1/2 cup uncooked bulgur wheat
  • 2 tomatoes, diced (1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 scallions (both white and green parts), trimmed and thinly sliced (1 cup or less)
  • 2 to 3 cups chopped fresh curly parsley, stems removed
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil + 1-2 tablespoons to cook chicken
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt (plus extra for chicken)
  • black pepper
  • 2 chicken breasts, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • feta cheese
  • pita bread

Directions

  1. Rinse the bulgur wheat in cold running water. Cook according to package directions (approx. 12-15 minutes for mine).
  2. Combine the tomatoes, scallions, parsley, cucumber, and mint.  Toss together.
  3. Add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to a skillet, bring to medium heat, cook chicken until cooked throughout, 4-5 minutes (more or less depending on size of chicken pieces).  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. While chicken cooks, whisk together the lemon zest, juice, olive oil, and salt (or pour in a jar and shake… my favorite whisking method).  Stir the dressing into the salad to combine.
  5. Fill your pita bread with salad, chicken, and feta.  Make sure you don’t run out of feta for your leftovers.  You’ll be sad if you do.

And for some reason, I find it amazing that just a little bit of lemon juice and zest can make the dressing into this color naturally:

dressing

pretty and simple

 

 

Oh, Martha

Martha Stewart sometimes gives me suggestions.  She’s cool like that (and maybe she suggests things to me via her website).  Yesterday’s suggestion was about how we should prepare for Thanksgiving, complete with a very comprehensive timeline.  Thanks, Martha!  

I’m a little bit confused by her suggestion this time, however.  Martha thinks we should have set the table for Thanksgiving dinner yesterday.  Which leads me to the question, where are we supposed to eat our meals between the 22nd and the 28th?  Martha, you so silly.

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photo from maisonboheme.blogspot.com

She did help me find a good-looking gluten-free pie crust recipe, however.  Someone [cough*Scott] won’t let me make the pecan pie gluten-free, because we haven’t tried the crust recipe yet.  I guess it would be a shame to kill two pies, so we’ll just experiment with the raspberry linzertorte.

Fire in the Hole

I’m writing about this now because I didn’t want to think about it anymore at the time.  In retrospect, it’s worth sharing–mostly the recipe, partially the story and the very mild trauma.

“What was this mildly traumatic event?” you might ask.  Keep in mind that I did say “mildly.”  

I was cooking up one of our favorite quick dinner recipes, chipotle chicken tacos with radish and avocado salsa (plus some regular salsa on top, because it’s extra delicious that way).  I added some extra chipotle peppers to the cooking chicken.  We really like chipotle peppers in adobe sauce around here.  If you follow the recipe, it’s spice-appropriate for just about anybody.  I was aiming for one level hotter than that.

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image from marthastewart.com

Somehow, the extra peppers mixed with a too hot pan and made spicy pepper smoke that made both of us feel like our lungs were on fire.  You know we like to eat, because we chowed down on the tacos despite the burning pepper lung situation that lasted for a few hours.  [Cough, munch, cough cough, munch munch.]

Okay, maybe it was funnier in person.  And more fiery.  

About a minute into the problem, we thought of the perfect solution for future enjoyment of tacos.  Cook the chicken outside on the grill.  Even in the fall or winter, a jacket should solve most weather-related issues.  And you can probably rid your yard of pesky critters with the pepper smoke, too.  Next time.

Flat Roast Chicken

Last night turned into “sand the cabinets” night.  Scott did a great job, which quickly turned our kitchen into the land of wood dust.  Yuck.  (And by “yuck,” I mean “Thanks, Scott!”)

Fortunately, he made awesome progress right after we ate dinner, so the dirty pots were dust-filled, and the tasty food was safe in our stomachs.  What tasty food?  This tasty food plus some fresh veggies:

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photo from Martha Stewart

I love that picture, too.  It’s beautiful, and the skin of the chicken looks so crispy.  Mmm.

The recipe is from Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys, by Lucinda Scala Quinn, and you can find more of her awesome recipes on her blog.  A few of our favorite recipes are from her book, and every one is hearty and flavorful.  Spaghetti bolognese that tastes like a dream, for example.  Unfortunately, I can’t eat spaghetti bolognese every day and stay alive.  So sometimes we pick roasted chicken instead.

The Flat Roast Chicken recipe scared me away for a while, mostly because it involves cutting out the backbone of the chicken.  I’m not great at that sort of thing, especially when sharp objects are required to achieve the goal.  I can vouch for the recipe though.  It was pretty easy to take out the backbone, actually.  And once I did that step, the rest was a breeze.  The best part was the taste.

I usually go with salt and pepper on chicken, and the addition of the butter-browned skin and the lemon and red pepper flake sauce on top at the end made it better than the standard roast chicken.  Taking out the backbone at the start also made it really easy to cut the chicken apart after it was cooked.

Now all I have to do is try to imagine cooking again in our dust-ridden kitchen.  Or paint it and clean.  One of the two.

Speaking of Martha

I couldn’t for the life of me finish a post I was working on yesterday (not the one that actually got posted).  What brought me out of the funk?  Cookbooks, of course.  The new books cart rolled on by, and I snagged not one, but two cookbooks to keep me busy for the next few weeks.  If all else fails, food helps me feel good about life every time.

Winning book number one is Two Dudes, One Pan: Maximum flavor from a minimalist kitchen. It looks like something I might want to keep around for longer than the one-month library loan period.  One of the recipes that made me want to head towards the closest kitchen is Grouper with Lemon-Caper Butter.  Have I mentioned that I think butter should be a food group (and not that stinky tiny one at the top of the pyramid)?

Winner number two is Martha Stewart’s Dinner at Home: 52 quick meals to cook for family and friends.

Now, I don’t believe Martha for a second when she says “quick meals.”  I’ve been through this issue with her before.  Her idea of quick, according to this cookbook, includes menus like this:

Baby lamb chops with lemon strips

Asparagus with aioli

Quinoa, pea, and mint salad

Vanilla-poached rhubarb

My idea of quick usually includes cereal or leftovers.  If Martha wanted to turn my love-hate relationship with her into a love-love relationship, all she would have to do is change the names of her cookbooks.  Instead of defining her meals as quick, she could call them complex or dinner-party-worthy.  In my opinion, both of those are more accurate descriptions than “quick.”  I love her recipes.  They tend to be well-written and have delicious results.  It’s just her assumption that anybody can make vanilla-poached rhubarb in a flash that bothers me.  If I’m going to make something like that, Martha had better acknowledge that it’s a special occasion.

And finally, on this day-o-recipes, I’ll leave you with an idea that a co-worker passed along to me.  Her husband cooks for her, and he made grilled lettuce the other day.  Sounded sketchy at first, then quickly transitioned to the tasty category.  Now this is quick, Martha:

Ingredients

1 head of Romaine lettuce

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Chevre (a.k.a. goat cheese)

Homemade vinaigrette dressing

Instructions

Okay, first you slice the lettuce in half (vertically), then you drizzle some olive oil on the sliced side of both halves.  Next you place the lettuce on the grill sliced-side down, drizzle the other side and flip when you feel the urge.  No, I don’t know what it’s supposed to look like when properly grilled.  Sorry.  I would guess sometime before it’s a drooping mess of lettuce and/or before it’s burned.

After both sides of the lettuce have been on the grill, you add salt, pepper, vinaigrette and chevre to your heart’s desire.  I’m guessing that a few crumbles of bacon and some roasted pine nuts wouldn’t hurt, either.  Mmm.  Thanks, Ron!

Martha the Unforgiving

Yesterday was one big step away from any hopes I had of achieving Martha Stewart status.  I had a day off and what did I do?  I didn’t make homemade guest soap or whitewash my fence.  I didn’t prepare a roast or weave my own linen napkins.  Nope.  I met up with a few friends I hadn’t seen in a while, laid out on my unswept back patio and listened to music.  Also on the list were quality time with my dog and some extremely successful attempts to avoid vacuuming and the grocery store.

I feel like Martha judges me when I choose to bake in the sun for an hour instead of vacuuming up the massive dog hair tumbleweeds in my living room.  She hovers above me in an all-knowing cloud of productivity, wondering why I didn’t vacuum and weed the garden.  I wish I could convey to this hovering, imaginary Martha that the unproductivity of that time was the very best thing about it.  Finding songs from the deep recesses of my iPod and rocking out to the best of 2001 was exactly what Friday, April 30 needed.  Sometimes squandering time is the best thing you can do.  Okay, that’s arguable.

Maybe the fact that I have an imaginary Martha in my head is why she’s so incredibly successful.  She’s the human equivalent of my domestic conscience, and she tells me what to do via daytime TV, a magazine, and a website.  If I miss all of those, she can still suggest a few things to me through her product lines at places like Home Depot.  I may not like her, but who truly enjoys their conscience?  You have this sense that she never really takes a day off or goes out to coffee in an old t-shirt and wrinkled pants.  She most certainly doesn’t choose to leave her bed unmade, and she knows all of the answers about what’s right and proper and how much confectioner’s sugar you need to make a paste that could help MacGyver in his next moment of need.

I wonder if you can choose to change the personification of your conscience.  If so, I want mine to be Lorelei Gilmore instead of Martha Stewart.  Lorelei would get mad if I didn’t take a second helping of ice cream or if I decided to make that guest soap that Martha’s trying to talk me into.  Now there’s a domestic model I wouldn’t mind being held to!  I’ll work on that.  If you come by the house and Peanut is hiding in piles of laundry on the couch, you’ll know who won the battle.