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Springtime Favorites and Simple Snacks

June 4, 2012

Do you get into food routines where you find yourself eating the same thing for a few weeks straight? Well I do, and right now I am loving: grilled asparagus, tabbouleh and a few other (call them odd…and thank me later) combinations.

Let’s start off with tabbouleh, a simple grain salad made of bulgar wheat, tomato, parsley and mint, often including onion and garlic, seasoned with olive oil and lemon juice. For some reason I found myself making quinoa tabbouleh, but after buying bulgar wheat, there is no more reason for substitutions. Bulgur is delicious. It has a mild, nutty flavor, is low in fat and is a cinch to prepare. Bulgur is made from whole grain red wheat that has been parboiled, dried, and ground. It cooks quickly and may be used in a wide variety of dishes. In fact, all you have to do is add equal parts boiling water to the grain and let it sit, covered, for approximately 20 minutes: super easy. I like Bob’s Red Mill brand.

Tabbouleh Salad

Yields approximately 2 quarts

Ingredients:

2 cups bulgar wheat (soaked for 20 minutes to 40 minutes in hot water)

1 container cherry tomatoes, halved

½ cup (packed) parsley, chopped

½ cup (packed) mint, chopped

*At this point in the season, I like to use cherry tomatoes, because their flavor is most concentrated compared to larger varieties.

Dressing:

1/3 cup olive oil

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

1 small shallot, minced

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Procedure: In a small to medium sized saucepan, bring 2 cups water, plus a pinch of salt, to a boil. Once boiling, turn off the heat; pour in the 2 cups of bulgar and cover. Let sit for 20 to 40 minutes, until all water is absorbed.

Remove lid and fluff bulgar with a fork. Add the tomatoes, fresh herbs and dressing and toss to combine.

Tabbouleh will keep in the fridge for 3 to 5 days.

Eat over greens and top with chickpeas and crumbled feta for a vegetarian meal. Or pair with grilled vegetables and skirt steak for a perfect early summer dinner.

Next on the list is asparagus, which is in peak season right now. Don’t be fooled by the width of the stalks, whether they are teeny tiny or fat and round, they all taste great. Bend the asparagus about half to three quarters of the way down the stalk until it snaps. Discard the woody ends. I like to eat asparagus raw, blanched and shocked and sautéed, but my favorite preparation method is grilling. If you don’t have access to an outside grill, have no fear, you can achieve the same effect indoors by using a grill pan. I have one from Le Creuset.

Cooking Instructions: Toss asparagus in approximately 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a generous pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Get your grill pan piping hot over high heat (no need to add fat, the oil on the asparagus will suffice). Place asparagus in the pan, perpendicular to the grill lines in one even layer. Let it cook, without touching for 2 to 3 minutes. Once grill marks are apparent, rotate and allow the fresh side to cook and char for another 2 to 3 minutes. Toss and cook for maybe another minute, and then remove from heat. Asparagus should still be brilliant green and lightly charred.

Okay now I’m going to let you in on some of my favorite food duos. Call me crazy, but theses simple, two ingredient combinations make for delicious and healthy snacks.

  • Strawberries & Tahini
  • Strawberries & Chevre
  • Chevre & Baked Sweet Potato (Once your potato is toasty and warm, slice in half and use chevré as you would sour cream. I allow the cheese to soften from the heat of the potato, then mash with a fork to combine. Delish! If you can find it, try varieties from Cypress Grove. I like this one best).

And last but not least, a combination that I crave for breakfast, as a snack and even for dessert: Peanut Butter-Banana-Maca Mash. Allow me to explain. Last summer I shared with you my secret of freezing overly ripe bananas to make ice cream. Here is yet another way to enjoy those bananas that are a bit too sweet and ripe to eat solo.

In a bowl combine 1 banana, 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter, 2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds and 2 teaspoons of ground maca root. Mash with a fork until all ingredients are incorporated. Eat this pudding-like combo as is, right out of the bowl or spread on a sprouted/ whole-grain piece of bread or English muffin. If you don’t like the flavor of maca or the consistency of flax, leave them out. I know a few of you are thinking that I’m totally nuts, but if you like peanut butter and banana, give it a whirl.

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