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Healthy and Easy– Bell Pepper, Garbanzo Bean, and Bulgar Salad

March 20, 2012

“Cookery is not chemistry. It is an art. It requires instinct and taste rather than exact measurements.” – Marcel Boulestin

Healthy and easy doesn’t sound very complicated.  But it’s not a cup of yogurt or a bowl of fruit I am talking about.  I am thinking of something hearty and flavorful with a farm-fresh bite.  But when the vegetable drawer in the fridge is begging for a visit to the produce market, it gets a little challenging to bring farm-fresh bite to the plate.  This was the dilemma I was facing last night.

When I opened my fridge, I found just a couple bell peppers and a bunch of parsley were keeping each other company in the vegetable drawer.  While I was wondering how to make the most of what was available, I found two slender carrots and a lemon hidden in a corner of the drawer.  I was hopeful to come up with something that would satisfy my appetite.  A look in the pantry to find some bulgar and a can of garbanzo beans completed the recipe– a well balanced meal of vegetables, whole grains, and protein.  It seemed like another victory over culinary battle!

This salad is similar to tabbouleh.  I used peppers and carrots instead of traditional vegetables– tomato and cucumber.  Seasoning garbanzo beans separately with sumac and cumin powder coated them well with the spices since canned garbanzo beans can be a little bland.  While the bulgar was soaking, I chopped the vegetables.  You can also add a Serrano chilli for an additional kick, if you prefer.  Serve it at room temperature or chill in the fridge.

Bulgar:  A Hearty Grain

Bulgar, also spelled as bulgur is well known as the main ingredient in the Middle Eastern dish, tabbouleh.  Bulgar is a wheat grain that has been parboiled, dried. and cracked which enables it to cook faster than many other grains.  It can be boiled or soaked in hot water.  It comes in different sizes.  The finer the grind the less time it takes to cook.

Its chewy texture is very satisfying and gives that feeling of mouthful hearty bite.  When soaking, flavor the water with the desired seasonings, and it absorbs them like a sponge.  Its perfect for stuffing and  breads.  It also works well as a meat substitute.

Cooking grains can be intimidating to a lot of us because of the time constraints.  But bulgar cooks very fast.  Just soaking it in hot water, and walking away for 25-30 minutes is all it needs.  Soaking time depends on the size of the grain.  Season water or use broths to give it an additional depth.  It’s a wonderful grain that is hearty and very satisfying.  So, give it a try anyway you want to transform it to your taste.  It is like a blank canvas; use your creativity to make it your own.  You will be amazed by its versatility!


1 cup bulgar
4  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon ground cumin, divided
salt to taste
1 cup hot boiling water
1 orange and 1 green bell pepper, diced small (or any combination of your choice)
½ cup carrots, diced small
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 15-oz. can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon sumac
Juice of 1 lemon or to taste
1 Serrano chilli, chopped (optional)

In a large bowl, combine bulgar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, zest of a lemon, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, and salt to taste.  Pour boiling water over it.  Stir and cover with plastic wrap.  Set aside for 30 minutes.  Soaking time will vary depending on the grind of the grain.  Bulgar should be fluffy and soft.  Give it a taste.

In the meantime, chop all the vegetables.  In another small bowl, combine garbanzo beans, salt to taste, remaining ½ teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon sumac, and a drizzle of olive oil.  Stir to coat and set aside.

When the bulgar is done, add vegetables, garbanzo beans, parsley, juice of lemon, and remaining olive oil.  Mix in Serrano chilli, if desired.  Stir gently to combine.  Adjust seasoning.

Serve at room temperature or chill in the fridge for an hour.

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