I spent last weekend holed up in my apartment attempting to kick a cold. By Monday morning I was feeling well enough that I was able to maintain a smile throughout my 14-hour workday. By Tuesday evening I wasn’t feeling so hot. Somehow I made it through work and class on Wednesday, although the subway ride home from 125th Street was enough to convince me to cancel my meetings for the rest of the week.
And so I am once again holed up in my apartment. I alternate between furiously cranking out emails and dozing on the couch. You can guess which one of these activities Oona favors.
Ordinarily I try to lay in supplies when I feel an illness coming on, but this time around I have been making do with what I have on hand–which led me to the revelation that bulgur makes for a tasty breakfast porridge, particularly when combined with pears from last week’s CSA share and young ginger from the farmers’ market.
Ginger Pear Breakfast Bulgur
- 1/2 cup bulgur
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 cup milk
- pinch salt
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch nutmeg
- 1 small knob ginger, peeled and minced (candied ginger or even ground ginger would also work)
- 2 small pears, cored and chopped
- maple syrup
Add the bulgur, water, milk, salt, spices and fresh ginger to a small pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and toss in the pears. Continue simmering, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or so until you’ve achieved your preferred porridge consistency. (Don’t be afraid to add more water.) Scoop into a bowl and drizzle with a little maple syrup.
Ordinarily I’m a savory breakfast fan, but this piping hot porridge full of spicy ginger did a nice job of clearing my head, at least momentarily.
Today is my first day off in almost a month. It’s been so long since I had a day to myself that I’m a bit paralyzed by the possibilities. I am also seemingly incapable of sleeping in despite being physically and mentally exhausted. By 11:00am I had done a sinkful of dishes, dealt with the alarming garbage and compost situation, tried (and failed) not to check my work email, made and consumed a cup of coffee, watched the final episode of House of Cards, spent an hour or so attempting to identify a movie that would hold my attention, given the cat some much-needed affection, and contemplated a shower.
I also found time to make myself a lovely lunch with whatever ingredients I happened to have on hand.
Bacon & Onion Bulgur Salad
- 3 strips good quality bacon, diced
- 1 red onion, sliced thinly
- 1 cup coarse/large bulgur wheat
- 1 bunch parsley, chopped
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced
- salt and pepper
- splash red wine vinegar (optional)
Render the bacon in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Scoop your homemade bacon bits into a bowl, leaving as much fat as possible in the pan. Add the onion and cook stirring frequently until soft and starting to caramelize. Scoop the onion into your bowl, add the bulgur to the pan and cook stirring constantly for a couple of minutes. The goal here it to toast your grains in all of that delicious bacon fat. Add a cup and a half of water and bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Switch off the heat and pop a lid on. After 20 minutes, remove the lid, stir and let sit for another 5 minutes or so until the water is absorbed. Stir in the bacon, onions, scallions and parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.
If you have somehow managed not to consume all of the delicious pickled watermelon radishes that a friend brought over a couple of weeks ago, they would make a great accompaniment. If not, you might want to add a little splash of red wine vinegar to balance the flavors.
Next up for my day of rest? A shower, a pedicure and a long walk capped off with a fancy dinner at Semilla. Tomorrow it’s back to the grindstone.
Yesterday was the longest day of the year–and a glorious one at that. A classmate, neighbor and new friend joined me for a wine-soaked celebration of the season’s bounty. Turns out we have even more in common than expected. This includes an inability to pass up a farmers market. Between our mutual addiction and our individual CSA shares, we had quite a few vegetables on hand. We also had some lovely pork chops thanks to Lewis Waite Farm.
Several glasses of wine and a couple of hours of gossip later, we sat down to a bulgur-kale pilaf with garlic scapes, green onions and parsley; coriander, cumin and fennel-crusted pork chops; and a green salad with celery, carrots, turnips and a goat milk yogurt vinaigrette.
We rounded the night out with a little rum and some armchair astrology circa 1980.
This morning found me downing a cup of coffee before dashing out to run errands. A friend was in the area with her dog, which led to more coffee (iced this time) and a little too much sun. Naturally, I had to swing by the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket for yet more vegetables. By the time I arrived home, it was after 1:00 and I was in serious need of some food to cushion all of that caffeine.
Luckily, in my tipsy state, I had still managed to pack up the leftover bulgur-kale pilaf. (Even better, Sara had done ALL of the dishes.) I replicated last night’s vinaigrette, using two tablespoons of goat milk yogurt, one tablespoon of white wine vinegar, one tablespoon of olive oil, a pinch of salt and some freshly-ground black pepper. I tossed this in a bowl with some green leaf lettuce, the leftover pilaf and an ounce or so of crumbled feta. You could do the same with leftover rice, quinoa, or pretty much any grain and whatever vegetables you have on hand. This makes an ideal light summer lunch that you can whip together in minutes.
Last Monday’s class included a discussion of Reflections on Fieldwork in Morocco, which chronicles Paul Rabinow’s experience conducting anthropological research in Morocco in the late 1960s. This particular course is from 6:45pm to 8:25pm–prime eating hours. At the beginning of the semester, we agreed to take turns bringing snacks to help us power through. I was up last week.
Some of my fellow students in the NYU Food Studies program are professional chefs. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel a certain amount of pressure. Clearly, it needed to be Moroccan or, at least, Moroccan-ish. I’ve had success with a few variations on a tajine, but this seemed highly impractical given that I had to put in a full day at the office and would not be able to reheat anything. I also did not want to endanger my classmates’ notebooks and iPads.
I studied in Jerusalem for six months when I was an undergrad and have fond memories of meze–elaborate spreads of small dishes that are common throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East. Think hummus, olives, stuffed grape leaves, falafel and yogurt-based dips. Meze can be the precursor to a meal or, as is my preference, a meal unto itself.
Lamb and Date Kaftah
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1/2 medium red onion, finely diced
- 1/2 cup bulgur
- 20 pitted, minced dates (currants or raisins would work too)
- 1/2 cups toasted pine nuts
- 1 bunch curly parsley, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh mint or 1 tablespoon dried
- 1/2 tablespoon toasted coriander seeds, ground
- 1/2 tablespoon toasted cumin seeds, ground
- 1 tablespoon dried sumac (lemon zest could be substituted)
- 1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper and 1 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
- 1/2 tablespoon turmeric
- 2 whole allspice, ground
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground clove
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- salt and pepper to taste
- canola oil
- Pour 2/3 cups boiling water over the bulgur in a small bowl and let sit while you prep your pine nuts, dates, onions, herbs and spices.
- Add everything except the canola oil to a medium work bowl and mix gently with you hands. Let this chill in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.
- Fill a large cast iron skillet with canola oil to approximately 1/4 inch and bring to medium-low heat. Working in batches, form the lamb mixture into small patties and add to the skillet. Cook until nicely browned on one side, flip and repeat. Drain on paper towels.These would make great sliders. Formed into balls and served with toothpicks, they would be a delightful hors d’oeuvres for a cocktail party. A couple of months ago, I made a similar version and served them hot over a Moroccan-seasoned ratatouille.In this case, I packed the kaftah in additional layers of paper towels and stashed them in the refrigerator along with a roasted eggplant dip and a labeneh-lemon dip. Another classmate brought a spicy carrot salad, mint tea, dates and almond cookies. We served it all with white and whole wheat pitas. It was a delightful feast.