Bulgur with Asparagus and Preserved Lemon Dressing

by rivka on May 12, 2011 · 8 comments

in good for you, salad, sides, vegetarian, weekday lunch

This is the latest my Weekday Lunch series, where I share recipes suited to home or office.

[Sheepishly:] Remember me?

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted something fresh. I’ve been too busy at work to cook, and unless y’all wanted to read about the take-out pad thai I ate for dinner all of last week, I didn’t have much to share.

But now work has calmed down, and my new-found freedom coincides nicely with some of the most awesomely beautiful days DC’s had in a while. Sun-plus-breeze is something DC gets only about 4 days a year, and I’m determined to be outside for all of them.

Last Sunday got me to my first farmers’ market in a long while. I picked up some beautiful asparagus – bunches and bunches; people, I can’t control myself – as well as some ramps, green garlic, and heavy cream, which my favorite dairy stand just started carrying. It’d be a great food week even if you didn’t compare to the last couple, but in light of those dim days full of takeout, I’m high on fresh produce.

My love of asparagus being no secret, I’m sharing yet another recipe for those beautiful ‘gus. The ones we’re getting right now aren’t the least bit woody – in fact, they’re nice and slender. If yours feel too rough, simply peel the bottoms of the bigger ones; their interiors should be plenty soft.

The recipe I’m sharing today is a slight riff on one from Amanda Hesser’s New York Times Essential Cookbook which, to my delight, just won a James Beard award. Three cheers for Amanda! This recipe, like so many others in that book, is just beautiful. For those of you with ambivalent feelings about bulgur, this will change your mind. Also, as Amanda points out, it’ll make you wish you had preserved lemons in your fridge at all times. I do, and I’ve never been happier at being able to just grab one from the jar and whiz it into this bright, tangy, complex dressing.

Friends, it’s nice to be back in this space. I’m looking forward to trying and sharing many more Spring recipes with all of you.

Bulgur with Asparagus and Preserved Lemon Dressing
adapted from The New York Times Essential Cookbook, by Amanda Hesser

I changed a few things about this recipe to make it a convenient workday lunch. First, it originally was a prepared salad, but I just chopped up the asparagus and folded them into the bulgur. Second, I subbed out pine nuts (mine had spoiled) for toasted walnuts, and I liked the combination of the somewhat bitter nuts with the bright asparagus and the saltiness of the dressing. Third, I like my bulgur a bit wet, so I used some extra water in cooking it to give a more porridge-y texture. Since no one else seems to like it this way, I included her original instructions here.

For the dressing:
1 preserved lemon
7 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin (freshly ground if possible)
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper

For the asparagus and bulgur:
1 pound asparagus, cut into 2-inch lengths
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 cup bulgur
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts (I toasted mine for 10 minutes in a 350-degree oven, but listen to your nose; when they smell fragrant, they’re done)

To make the dressing, cut the preserved lemon in half. Chop one half and place all of it in a blender. Use a spoon to remove the pulp from the remaining half and add only the pulp to the blender. Save the rind for another use. Add the remaining dressing ingredients to the blender and process until smooth. Set aside.

To make the asparagus and bulgur, bring a large pot 2/3 full of salted water to a boil and add the asparagus. Cook just until tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge the asparagus into cold water. If not shocking asparagus, cook just 3 minutes, since they will continue to cook off the heat. Cool, drain, and set aside.

Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and cook for 1 minute. Add the bulgur and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted, 4 to 5 minutes. Add 2 cups of water and the salt and bring to a boil. Cover the skillet, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the water has evaporated and the bulgur is tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and bring to room temperature.

Place the cooled bulgur in a large serving bowl. Toss with asparagus and walnuts, and drizzle dressing overtop. Fold to coat salad with dressing. Serve at room temperature.

Salad will keep in the refrigerator for several days.

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