In my quest for a healthy, tasty and filling lunch that I could make ahead, pack in a container and eat without a fuss, I’ve been making bulgur-and-chickpea salads a couple of times a week.
It’s an infinitely variable formula:
- Grains (you could use bulgur, quinoa, barley or rice of any kind, etc.)
- Beans (chickpeas, navy beans, black beans, cannellini, red beans, etc.)
- Vinaigrette (I like olive oil/garlic with plenty of fresh lemon juice)
- Vegetables fresh (chopped spinach, chard or other greens are good, cherry tomatoes, diced cucumber, and of course green or red onions) or cooked (asparagus, green beans, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, peppers)
- Salt and pepper and herbs, fresh or dried — basil, dill, thyme, tarragon, etc.
- Options: Cheese (crumbled feta is good or fresh mozzarella slices), chopped toasted nuts, canned tuna or salmon, chicken, olives, marinated or pickled vegetables, etc. etc.
I’m partial to bulgur because it cooks quickly and simply: Just put a cup of bulgur in a bowl, add 1 1/2 cups of boiling water, stir, cover the bowl with a plate or lid and wait 20 minutes or so, until the grain has absorbed all the water. Then you can add the vinaigrette — I really like olive oil and lemon juice–salt and pepper to taste, and begin adding your other ingredients.
Go with what you like, what’s in season, what’s around your kitchen and cupboards, what seems like an enticing collage of flavors.
You don’t have to include beans, but they do contribute a lot to protein and texture. I like the chickpeas (also called garbanzos) because the canned ones are firm enough to hold up well in this salad. I use a ratio of half a can (1 cup) to 1 cup of bulgur.
I also consider the sliced green onions practically essential, for both flavor and color, as are green vegetables, in bite-size pieces. Diced red peppers (raw or roasted) or sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil are great to add color and flavor to the salad. Nuts, olives, feta cheese, are nice options, but the salad is fine without any extras too (and even vegan if you forgo the cheese).
Could you double the recipe and bring this salad to a potluck or a picnic?
Sure, why not?