Bulgur Salad with Grapes and Feta

I know it’s still only September, but I’ve already got Thanksgiving on the brain. Somehow, once the weather starts cooling down, it feels like one big slip and slide ride to the holidays. And as a foodie, Thanksgiving is definitely a holiday to look forward to. While I enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner as much as the next person, I also love the idea of trying new recipes (especially healthier versions of classics) for the feast. Last year, on A Love Letter to Food’s Facebook page, I did a ten-day countdown to a healthier Thanksgiving, featuring ten different recipes for better-for-you sides and desserts.

This year I already know what healthy side I want to take to Thanksgiving: this Bulgur Salad with Grapes and Feta.

It may not bear much resemblance to mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, or dinner rolls, but stick with me. When we tried this recently as a side with grilled chicken, it was a match made in heaven. I can only assume the same for how it would pair with turkey.

If you’re new to bulgur, join the club. Though a variety of different grains have become available in mainstream grocery stores these days, bulgur hasn’t caught on as much as the “cool kids” of quinoa, couscous, and wheat berries. If you had asked me a year ago to tell you anything about this particular grain, I would have drawn a blank (except for an internal snicker at how its name sounds kinda gross, like “Aunt Tillie can’t make it to Thanksgiving because her bulgur is acting up again”).

The deeper I get into trying to follow a Mediterranean diet, though, the more new foods I’m exposed to. I now know that bulgur is essentially just hulled whole kernels of durum wheat. Translation: it’s a whole grain, and it’s good for you. It’s low in fat and sodium, extremely high in fiber. Plus, it has a pleasing chewy texture, soaks up marinades and dressings beautifully, and can be used in place of just about any other similar grain, like quinoa, couscous, or even rice. I’m a believer.

This Bulgur Salad with Grapes and Feta is adapted from America’s Test Kitchen’s Complete Mediterranean Cookbook (which I’m LOVING RIGHT NOW and will soon be posting about!). It’s a no-cook recipe, as the bulgur kernels take a soak in lemon juice and water for 90 minutes to soften up to the point of chewy edibility. Once the soaking is complete, the now-chewy grains are tossed with grapes, feta, fresh mint, slivered almonds, and an olive oil-based dressing.

As a side for Thanksgiving–or any other meal–give this refreshing and different salad a try!


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Bulgur Salad with Grapes and Feta
A refreshing, healthy salad featuring high-fiber bulgur, grapes, and feta cheese.
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl (the bowl you intend to serve this salad in), soak bulgur in a mixture of 1 c. water, 1/4 c. lemon juice, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Cover and let sit for about 90 minutes, or until bulgur has softened and become chewy and no liquid remains.
  2. Meanwhile, make the dressing: in a measuring cup, combine 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, olive oil, cumin, cayenne powder, and 1/4 tsp. salt.
  3. When all liquid has been absorbed in the bulgur, pour dressing over the grains and toss to combine. Add feta, almonds, grapes, green onions, and mint and toss again. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or refrigerate.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook by America's Test Kitchen.

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Vegetarian Mexican Stuffed Peppers

Vegetarian Mexican Stuffed Peppers

Maybe it’s just me, but do you ever go through phases of food obsession? I mean, some food obsessions are an unchanging given, like chocolate. But others seem to come and go. My current fan favorite is red peppers. Perhaps you could tell, seeing as how this is the third recipe in two months on the blog to include red peppers. The passing fancy of my own food phases makes me think of here-today, gone-tomorrow food trends I’ve seen throughout my lifetime. Maybe today’s kale and quinoa–or in my case, red peppers–are tomorrow’s pop rocks and 1-2-3 Jell-O. (Remember 1-2-3 Jell-O? Why did that have to die? ’80s kids, let’s get a petition going!)

123 Jell-O

Bring it back! Bring it back!

The fact is, unlike the processed mystery that is 1-2-3 Jell-O, I’m new to the crunchy crimson veggie wonder that is red peppers. Up until the last couple of years, I ate red peppers only under social pressure, and even then would prod them around my plate like a picky toddler. I had the sneaking suspicion that people who claimed to enjoy bell peppers were trying to play a vile joke on the rest of us. But somehow–probably as a result of learning in my nutrition studies how fantastically healthy peppers are for you–I have gradually come around. It’s amazing how our mentality can change our feelings about food, isn’t it? (I draw the line, however, at mushrooms. Mushrooms are an eternal abomination.) Having developed a taste for red peppers, though, I’m now all over the map trying them in various combinations and permutations.

It was inevitable, then, that stuffed peppers would make their way into our family’s meal rotation.

Vegetarian Mexican Stuffed Peppers

This version of the classic is 100% vegetarian with a hefty dose of black beans, rice, corn, and tomatoes and a not-too-spicy Mexican flair. The rice and bean filling is delicious all on its own, but stuffing it in a tangy red pepper dripping with sharp cheddar takes it over the top. My husband–a more experienced stuffed pepper eater–says that most stuffed peppers have a softer texture than this recipe, but I for one enjoyed the not-too-squishy crunch that these peppers retained by not baking for too long. These made for a satisfying vegetarian dinner I know I’ll make again.

So how about you? Do you have a current food obsession, or a food you used to hate but have come to love? Tell me all about it!

Vegetarian Mexican Stuffed Peppers

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Vegetarian Mexican Stuffed Peppers
A healthy vegetarian stuffed peppers recipe with a Mexican flair!
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute 5 minutes, then add minced garlic and saute another 30 seconds. Add rice, vegetable broth or water, diced tomatoes, salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, and oregano and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 16-18 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice off the tops of the peppers and scrape out the seeds and membranes. Place peppers snugly in the bottom of an 8 x 8 glass baking dish (or larger, depending on the size of your peppers).
  3. When rice is finished cooking, add corn and beans to the mixture and stir to combine. Spoon carefully into peppers.
  4. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle with cheddar, and continue baking another 15 minutes. Serve immediately.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

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