Like it or not, I hear 2016 is the year of the vegetable. For those of you high-fiving your broccoli and already in good company with your vegetables you may be thinking, “Finally!” But for many of us, myself included, this may be the year of reckoning.
I decided a few years ago that shaming myself for not eating a ton of vegetables was the wrong way to go about actually eating more vegetables. That wasn’t a healthy attitude and it just made me cringe every time I forced myself to eat things like salads. These days, I’m much more content to choose my favorite vegetables and just find new ways to eat them. With all the variety of ingredients available to us these days, we really don’t have to cook things the same way we grew up eating them. New spices, new cooking techniques, cookbooks by reputable chefs and just as creative home cooks get published every day. I let these things inspire the way I cook and this way, the vegetables I eat never get old and lost on me.
This next recipe is a great case in point. Crisp, bright green beans mingle with a lemony blend of garbanzo beans and bulgur. Fresh parsley and dill tie it all together. No boring boiled beans here. This time of year, I feel like green beans tend to show up like surprises every now and then at the grocery store. Surely a tease for summer, but perhaps a leftover from the green bean casserole demands of winter. I kid you not, I gasp a little to myself when I find a perfect, unblemished batch of fresh green beans. See there, it’s not impossible to fall in love with vegetables.
Beans & Greens Salad
1/2 cup medium course bulgur
1 cup water
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
1 large lemon, zested and juiced
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and black pepper, plus additional to taste
Bulgur is a whole grain that comes in various sizes or grinds. Depending on what’s available in your local grocery store, cooking times and flavor may vary. The bulgur used in this recipe is a medium grind and has a lighter, yellow color. Some bulgur may be light brown and finer. I toasted this bulgur to bring out its natural nutty flavor in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat for about two minutes until it turned golden. This step is optional. As a general rule, I’ve found bulgur to cook best with a 1:2 ratio, 1 part bulgur to 2 parts liquid. It cooks well on the stovetop as well as in the microwave.
Fresh herbs can be a luxury for some budgets, but I find that adding a little fresh herbs to dishes I cook in the winter can really excite the palate. Any combination of fresh or dried herbs would be great to experiment with in this recipe. To keep waste to a minimum, you can choose smaller bunches of fresh herbs and use the entire bunch or, if your budget allows, use an entire small packet of herbs that come in flat, plastic herb containers. Unless it’s a stronger flavored herb like rosemary, parsley or oregano, you really can’t overseason with fresh herbs. Fresh herbs keep well in a small container with water, or sealed in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Add them to soups, salads or even smoothies.
Blanch is a cooking method that keeps vegetables crisp and colorful. Don’t let the lingo intimidate you. It’s the easiest trick in the book, and if you’ve never done it before, you’re going to wonder how you ever survived on boiled vegetables. When you blanch, you are basically heating the food in boiling water for a very short period of time and then quickly shocking the food in cold water to help it retain its color and texture. I find blanched vegetables a bit easier to digest, and for more pickier eaters, a great way to remove some of the bitterness or raw flavor that may keep them from eating their vegetables. Try this with broccoli, cauliflower, carrots. It makes a huge difference!
Place bulgur in a bowl with cold water and cook in the microwave for 8 minutes or until soft but still slightly chewy. Set aside.
Chop fresh herbs and add to a large bowl along with garbanzo beans, lemon zest and cooked bulgur. Place in the refrigerator to chill.
Fill a large stock pot with water and cover with a lid. Place on a burner over high heat until water begins to boil.
While waiting for water to reach a boil, place a large bowl in the sink and fill halfway with cold water. This will be used to shock the green beans once they have been blanched in the hot water.
Drop green beans into boiling water and cook for about 2 minutes or until the beans are bright green and still crunchy. Drain the beans from the hot water or use tongs to quickly move them into the cold water. Allow them to sit in the cold water briefly while you make the vinaigrette. Drain when ready to mix into the rest of the salad.
In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in olive oil until all is well blended.
Add blanched green beans to bulgur mixture and dress with vinaigrette. Toss to coat. Adjust seasonings if needed. Serve cold or room temperature.