Italian-Ate Bulgur Wheat Salad with Spring Vegetables

This is a spring variation of my Italian-Ate Tabbouleh, featuring the asparagus and fava beans that are starting to arrive in my local markets.  Bulgur is such a versatile and easy grain to prepare–simply soak in boiling water for 20 minutes or so, then dress.  It lends itself to earthy flavors as well as bright, acidic ones.

The dish is punctuated with lemon juice and zest, fresh mint and parsley.  Cucumbers also add a bit of crunch and brightness.  The asparagus and fave are par-cooked, then added to the mix.

The salad may be made in advance (not too far, since mint will blacken, the longer it sits).  It’s also a great main course for lunch, sprinkled generously with feta or ricotta salata.  

Italian-Ate Bulgur Wheat Salad with Spring Vegetables

serves 6, with leftovers

2 c coarse bulgur

2 c boiling water

1 1/2 lbs asparagus (fat ones are better than skinny ones)

2 cups fava beans (the yield from approximately 2 lbs whole pods)

1 cucumber, peeled (leaving some strips of peel on)

1 c fresh chopped mint

1 c fresh chopped parsley

1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil

juice + zest of one lemon

salt and pepper to taste

Place bulgur in a bowl and cover with boiling water.  Cover with lid and allow to steep for about 20 minutes.  Drain.

Peel the lower third of each asparagus stalk and immerse in cold water for a few minutes to allow any soil to drop to the bottom of the bowl.  Drop asparagus into boiling salted water for about 1 1/2 minutes (blanch in small batches so as not to reduce water temperature too drastically).

Refresh in cold water immediately.  Cut crosswise into 1/2″ pieces

Peel cucumber and slice in half lengthwise.  With a small round measuring spoon, scoop out seeds.

Cut cucumber into 1/2″ wide strips, then crosswise into 1/2″ dice.

Shuck and peel fave (see Fava Beans with Leeks, Arugula and Mint).  Blanch beans for a minute, then set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients.

Season with salt and pepper and taste.  Keep stirring and adding salt and pepper until you’ve reached the desired degree of seasoning–I added almost a tablespoon of salt to mine (gradually, by the half-teaspoon).

Serve at room temperature or from the fridge.  Keeps for days, but the mint will blacken as time goes by.

The ideal main course to accompany this dish would be grilled lamb chops. (See my next post, Perfect Grilled Lamb Chops, below).

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