Saturday, July 24, 2010

Summer Salads for the Season

We've been ordering in quite a bit these days -- much more than I'd like. Not only is it getting expensive, but I'm actually getting tired of eating restaurant food. I can't believe it, but I miss cooking. Avo recently reminded me that last summer we mostly dined on Mark Bittman's 101 Simple Salads for the Season, his collection of light, flavorful salads made fairly simply from fresh ingredients.

Last summer, I tried to work my way through all 101 of them (I think I only made it to 20 or so). Looking over the notes I jotted into the margins on the print-out from last summer, next to a recipe for bulgur and cauliflower, I noticed a review from Avo. "I'd say it's a winner," he had proclaimed. I decided to give it a shot.

Here's the recipe:

#92 (out of 101): Simmer a cup of bulgur and some roughly chopped cauliflower florets until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Toss with chopped tarragon, roughly chopped hazelnuts, minced garlic, Dijon mustard, oil oil and lemon juice.

I had the ingredients on hand, but how do I go about simmering bulgur? In "How to Cook Everything," Bittman's recipe for bulgur calls for pouring 2 1/2 cups of boiling water on top of a cup of bulgur and covering for 20 minutes or so. Where does simmering come into the equation?

I go wild chopping up cauliflower florets (he did say "roughly" after all) and toss them into a pot with 1 cup of bulgur and 2 1/2 cups of water. I stir and simmer for about 15 minutes until the florets are tender.

Meanwhile, I chop up the tarragon, the hazelnuts and the garlic and toss in some Dijon mustard, olive oil and lemon juice to make a dressing.

What I like about Bittman's recipe is that he doesn't actually tell you how much of each ingredient to use. I find it liberating not to have to measure things out. Of course, it's tricky finding just the right balance. Luckily, I managed okay. I drained out some extra water from the bulgur cauliflower combo and then tossed in some of the Dijon/tarragon/hazelnuts/garlic/olive oil/lemony dressing.

"I'd say it's a winner," Avo declares yet again. It was tasty the first time around, but even tastier when Avo whipped up the leftovers today -- he had sauteed them in bacon grease and added bacon. "Bacon makes everything better!" said Avo. Can't agree with him more.