Making salad is like writing poetry

Telling the difference between fantastic and boring salads.

Green bulgur salad (photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Green bulgur salad
(photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Some people love preparing salads, while others just love eating them. Either way, most people can tell the difference between a fantastic salad and one that is just plain boring.
In my mind, making salad is like writing poetry – if you combine the correct ingredients in a certain way, you end up with an interesting surprise on your plate. If you invest in high-quality ingredients and time for planning what salad is appropriate for your meal, you’ll come out very satisfied indeed. And with a tiny bit more effort, you can even bring your concoction to work, on a hike or to the pool.
I love eating salads for dinner that consist of grains or legumes, and a little preparation ahead of time can come in very useful. In other words, if you cook the grains and then store them in airtight containers in the freezer, they will be ready for use whenever you need them. And if you know you’ll be adding them to a salad in the evening, the best thing to do is take out the required amount and let them defrost in the fridge all day.
This week, I will explain how to make four delightful and tasty salads. The first is a green bulgur salad rich with herbs that is fancy enough to serve at a dinner party. You can throw in a handful of raspberries, strawberries, pomegranate seeds and dried fruits.
The second recipe is a two-color bean salad with capers and olives that hails from the Balkans. This salad can be used as an appetizer, or even the main course for a light meal.
The third salad contains lentils and tuna and can easily be served as a main course. The last salad is a bit more surprising. It’s made from buckwheat, bell peppers and cranberries. Buckwheat appears in many dishes, but it is usually overwhelmed by other ingredients. In this salad, however, buckwheat is the central ingredient and makes this tasty salad a really healthy alternative.
As my regular readers know well, I can’t help but add in a dessert recipe to make your Shabbat as sweet as possible. Since apricots are now in season, all you need to do is add a little sugar and orange juice, and voila! You can also add a little bit of whipped cream, yogurt or even a ball of ice-cream on top if you’re feeling decadent.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.
Green bulgur salad
Makes 4-6 servings
Ingredients: ■3 tbsp olive oil ■ 1 red onion, chopped finely ■ ¾ cup cranberries ■ 1 cup bulgur, soaked in water for an hour, and then rinsed ■ 1 green pepper, chopped finely (optional) ■ ¾ cup scallion, chopped finely ■ ¾ cup nuts, chopped ■ ¼ cup mint, chopped ■ ½ cup parsley, chopped ■ ¼ cup basil, chopped ■ ¼ cup coriander, chopped ■ Salt and pepper, to taste
Directions: Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry onion until it’s soft and translucent. Add the cranberries and stir for 3-4 minutes.
Add the bulgur and chopped pepper and stir for another 3-4 minutes. Remove from the flame and transfer to a large bowl.
Add the scallion, nuts, herbs, salt and pepper. Stir. Taste and adjust seasoning.
If you’d like the salad to be extra tangy, add 1-2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice.
Bean salad with capers and olives
Makes 6-8 servings
Ingredients: ■ 2 cups red and white beans, soaked overnight ■ 1 tsp. salt ■ 3 Tbsp. vinegar ■ 1 red onion, chopped finely ■ 1 onion, chopped finely ■ 2 Tbsp. capers ■ 1 cup pitted black Kalamata olives ■ ½ – ¾ cup parsley, chopped ■ 2 Tbsp. olive oil Salt and pepper to taste Serving suggestion: ■ 1 tin of anchovies, drained (optional) ■ 3 hardboiled eggs, cut into quarters ■ 3 tomatoes, cut into quarters
Directions: Drain the beans and transfer to a pot. Cover with water to one centimeter above beans. Bring to a boil.
Cook over a medium flame for 75 minutes until beans are soft – but not too soft. (If beans become too soft, they will begin to fall apart, and this will make the salad look less aesthetically pleasing.) Drain beans and transfer to a large bowl. Add salt, vinegar, onion, capers, olives and parsley. Mix and then season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Spoon out salad onto individual salad plates or onto a large serving platter. Decorate top with tomatoes, eggs and anchovies, and serve.
Lentil and tuna salad
Makes 6-8 servings
Ingredients: ■ 2 cups green lentils, soaked for an hour ■ 2 scallions, chopped ■ 1 large red onion, chopped ■ 2 cups tuna in oil, drained ■ 1 red pepper, cut into cubes or strips ■ ¼ cup coriander, chopped ■ 3 sprigs of mint, chopped ■ ¼ cup parsley, chopped ■ 1 cup pitted black Kalamata olives ■ Salt and freshly ground black pepper ■ ½ cup olive oil ■ Juice from a medium lemon
Directions: Drain the lentils and pour them into a medium pot. Cover with water to one centimeter above lentils. Cook over a medium flame and bring to a boil. Lower flame and cook over low flame for 30 minutes or until soft – but not too soft.
Drain and rinse the lentils and then transfer to a bowl. Add the onion, pieces of tuna, red pepper and the rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Buckwheat, peppers and cranberries
Makes 6-8 servings
Ingredients: ■ 1½ cups buckwheat ■ 1 tsp. salt ■ 2 Tbsp. hazelnut oil ■ 2 Tbsp. olive oil ■ 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar ■ 2 red peppers, cut into cubes ■ 1 yellow pepper, cut into small cubes ■ 2 pickles, cut into cubes ■ 2 tbsp. cranberries ■ 1½ cup blanched almonds ■ Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste Directions: Pour a liter of water into a pot. Add the buckwheat and salt and cook over medium-low flame for 30 minutes.
Drain buckwheat well.
Transfer buckwheat to a large bowl and add the oils and vinegar. Season with a little salt and pepper and let cool for a while. Add the other ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Treat for Shabbat: Roasted apricots
Makes 6 servings
Ingredients: ■ 10 apricots, pitted and cut in half ■ 2 heaping Tbsp. brown demerara sugar ■ 2 packages vanilla sugar ■ Zest and juice of one orange ■ 1 stick of cinnamon or star anise
Directions: Place apricot halves on a baking tray and sprinkle sugars on top. Add half of the orange zest, the orange juice and the cinnamon stick. Mix gently. Place in the bottom rack of an oven that was preheated to 180° and bake for 15 minutes.