Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Greek-style bulgur salad

When Merrick and I agreed to sublet a tiny apartment in Cambridge for the summer, we had no idea what we were in for.
By some cosmic hilarity, our apartment (to which I will ironically refer as “shabby-chic”) was already totally furnished before we moved in, leaving no reasonable place for our own boxes. And, because we’re moving again in September, my current mentality can be loosely summarized as, “Why bother unpacking?” 

 The living room is dominated by boxes, while in the bedroom, messy suitcases have entirely taken over the floor like mold takes over cheese—at a creeping but determined pace, until suddenly you look up and realize that the mold has won. There is a good possibility that I will abandon all hope of ever finding appropriate clothes to wear to work and just start showing up in a bathrobe. 

 There is an equally good chance that I will eighty-six all of my cooking plans and we will just live on Indian take-out from the place down the street. Especially since only two of the burners on our stove work. And especially because when I use those burners, the kitchen heats up to roughly two hundred degrees.

The words “no-cook dinner” call to me like a siren song. We’ve been living off of a good number of leafy and non-leafy salads: bread salads, fruit salads, and this, a Greek-style bulgur salad. It finds a close cousin in tabouli, but because Merrick hates parsley (blasphemer!), my parsley-free tabouli is never proper tabouli, morphing instead into this delightful variation. And the best thing about it, besides plenty of fresh summer vegetables studding the salad like so many shining rubies and emeralds, is that you don’t have to cook the bulgur. It’s like one of those dinosaur sponge capsules we used to waterlog in a sinkful of hot water: just let it soak and the magic happens on its own.

Greek-style Bulgur Salad
1 cup bulgur
1 teaspoon cumin
Juice from 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
¼ cup good-quality olive oil
1 cup chickpeas
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 English cucumber or 4 Persian cucumbers, seeds removed and diced
4 scallions, sliced thinly

4 ounces feta cheese, cut into ½ inch cubes
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
½ cup roughly chopped kalamata olives (optional)
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Soak the bulgur in 1 cup hot water for 20-25 minutes, or until the bulgur has lost its chew. It should be firm, but easy to eat.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together the cumin and lime juice in a small bowl until blended, then slowly whisk in the olive oil until the dressing has combined.

3. In a large bowl, combine the bulgur, chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, feta cheese, mint, and olives (if using). Stir in the dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve garnished with sliced scallions and a few olives, if you like.


  1. As always, your descriptions of your travails and hopes lead me to much laughter. Kiss the Blasphemer for me and take one for yourself.
    Your current recipe sound like something I've never heard about but is doable. . .not that I'm going to try it, but maybe I can get someone near here to do so. Love your stuff.
    G Tep