What are your plans for Memorial Day? It’s coming up, you know. My college roommate, Angie, will be here to celebrate her birthday! I haven’t seen her in years, but whenever we get together I turn into a 20-year old college kid again — some friends just do that to you, you know? While she’s here, there’s definitely going to be some barbecuing and picnicking and maybe a few adult libations! And a lot of Jimmy Buffett music. Angie is a huge Parrot Head! For these kinds of casual hang-outs, you need a casual menu. Throw some chicken on the grill and serve up some tasty, healthy sides with whole grains and lots of veg, like this Mediterranean Cracked Wheat Salad.
This is my kind of summertime “cooking” in that it’s really not cooking at all. I mean cracked wheat practically cooks itself and the vegetables just need a rinse and a quick chop.
I absolutely love side salads like this — you know — ones that are delicious and satisfying and come together in minutes! Frankly, they are way better than those sad prepared macaroni or pasta salads you find in the deli case! And you can make it ahead of time or even the day before so you don’t have to take precious time away from sun-tanning and swimming to prep lunch or dinner.
If you’ve never made cracked wheat before, there are several methods, but this is my favorite and I think one of the simplest… Boil water and pour it over the cracked wheat, then cover with plastic wrap to steam. It takes about 15-20 minutes and after the water is absorbed, just fluff it with a fork. If there’s more liquid left in the bottom of the bowl, strain it. Let the cracked wheat cool to room temperature before mixing it with the vegetables.
You can make this salad your own, adding whatever you like.. and skipping what you don’t. Don’t like onions? Trade them out for some chopped scallions. If you want to add cheese, feta would be an obvious choice.
The dressing is full of bright, tangy flavors that really bring this dish together and make it perfect for a cookout on a warm day. Put on your bikini, lube yourself up with SPF30, mix a pitcher of sangria, mojitos or margaritas, crank up the beach music and enjoy the feast! Summer is HERE!
Mediterranean Cracked Wheat Salad
- 1 cup bulgur wheat
- 1 3/4 cups boiling water
- 1 8 ounce can garbanzo beans rinsed and drained
- 1 cup grape tomatoes halved
- 1/2 cup finely diced celery
- 1/2 cup julienned radishes
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives seeded and halved
- 1/2 cup pepperoncini peppers chopped
- 1/3 cup finely diced red onion
- 1 lemon
- 1 large clove garlic minced
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil
In a medium bowl add the bulgur wheat and boiling water and cover tightly with saran wrap. Set aside for 15-20 minutes for the wheat to absorb the liquid.
Meanwhile prep the vegetables and place them in a large bowl.
For the dressing
Zest the lemon and place the zest in a small bowl. Juice the lemon — you should have about 1/4 cup — if not, juice another half of a lemon to equal 1/4 cup of juice. Add the garlic, parsley, salt, pepper oregano and red pepper. In a steady stream, whisk in the olive oil. Set aside.
Remove the plastic wrap from the bulgur wheat and fluff with a fork. If there is liquid left in the bottom of the bowl, strain it out. When the bulgur wheat has cooled to room temperature, add it to the chopped vegetables and toss to combine. Add about half of the dressing to the salad and toss until coated. Taste for seasoning. If it needs more dressing, add it by 1-2 tablespoons at a time. You don’t want the salad to be overly wet or goopy.
Serve at room temperature or chilled.