On this Memorial Day, we continue our mini-theme of grain-based salads, those wonders that can double as a meal yet are also perfect for potlucks. I served this cajun-inspired salad last Sunday at the NOLA Veggie Fest, so for those of you I met who asked me for this recipe, I’m happy to share it now. (Last week I shared the recipe for tropical quinoa and black bean salad, which I brought to the fest on Saturday.)
A couple things. First: bulgur. Bulgur is an awesome whole grain (it’s a form of wheat) that a lot of people have not heard of – but I’m seriously on a mission to change that. I first wrote about bulgur here when I made red lentil balls. I’m always looking for ways to diversify my diet, and cooking up some bulgur, instead of rice or some other grain you might normally have, is a great way to do that. You can use a ratio of 1 cup bulgur to 2 cups water, or even add more water (say, an additional half cup of water) if you like it fluffier. I usually just simmer it for 5 minutes, covered, and then turn the fire off and let it sit for another 25 minutes for it to finish cooking on its own. The bulgur will soak up all the water.
Also: a word about the spices. This recipe calls for a Cajun spice blend, and there are a million types of Cajun spice blends out there. If you’re curious, the kind I used was from Penzey’s. It doesn’t matter a whole lot which kind you use, as long as it’s got a flavor you like. The thing I’d caution you about when purchasing Cajun spice blend is to avoid what they call Cajun “seasoning.” That’s mostly just salt and pepper with a few spices thrown in. For a good Cajun spice blend, paprika should be the main ingredient.
And you’ll notice that I call for smoked paprika. Smoked paprika is, well, special. It’s very different from regular paprika or “sweet” paprika. I treasure my little tin of it because it adds so much depth of flavor to whatever you use it in. While I purchased mine at the Williams Sonoma at the mall, I’m happy to report, for my New Orleans-based friends, that the Rouses on Tchoupitoulas Street now has a fancy spice section to the right as you walk in, where smoked paprika is available for a few bucks. Get thee some. It will rocket-propel your cooking up about ten notches.
Serves: 3-4 as a main meal, more if served as a side
Time: 55 minutes (25 minutes if you’ve got cooked bulgur on hand)
Feel free to adjust the amounts of the components of the salad to suit your personal preferences. If you want to save time, you can cook the bulgur in advance.
1 cup bulgur, uncooked (or 3 cups cooked)
1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 (14-oz) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 green pepper, diced small (about 1/2 cup diced)
2 stalks celery, diced small (about 1/2 cup diced)
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 shallot, chopped small (about 1/3 cup chopped)
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon cajun spice blend
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
generous amount of freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola or other neutral-tasting oil (e.g., grapeseed, sunflower or safflower)
To cook the bulgur, boil 2 cups water. Add the bulgur, reduce the heat to low and cover. After 5 minutes, turn the heat off. Let the bulgur sit for 25 more minutes, covered, or until the bulgur has absorbed all the water. Fluff with a fork and let cool for 20 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine the shallot, vinegar, Cajun spice blend, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Mix in the canola oil. Taste the dressing and adjust seasonings if desired.
Bring 1/2 cup of water to a boil in a small pot and simmer the corn for about 3 minutes. Drain.
Combine the bulgur and the corn in a large bowl with the kidney beans, green pepper, celery, and parsley. Pour the dressing on the bulgur mixture and mix well. Serve cold or at room temperature.
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