I was a child who did not like my peas to touch my mashed potatoes. I'm sure many of you can relate. I have long left that way of thinking in favor of combining, tossing, and stirring a myriad of ingredients to form a complete meal where everything comes together as one. There's so much more freedom with this way of cooking; it's like coloring outside the lines when you're told not to.
Yet, I've encountered the same misconception about vegetarian meals many times. It seems one of the hardest things for those who are looking to eat less meat--and not sacrifice heartiness--to grasp is the concept of a one-dish meal. A traditional dinner often consists of your grain, protein, and vegetables, but each is prepared and served separately. It's harder to see each of those elements when they're all mixed up as one.
This bulgar, millet, and chickpea salad is a perfect example of a meal that brings everything all in one satisfying bowl, and represents my cooking style.
Tossed with chickpeas, carrots, spinach, and a zesty dressing, bulgar and millet work as quite the duo. I love to create dishes with a combination of grains for delicious texture and flavor. Each grain has its own cooking time though, which can get tricky.
If you're going to a dinner party, this dish is a crowd-pleaser. Don't have bulgar or millet? Quinoa works, too.
Bulgar, Millet, and Chickpea Salad
serves 4 to 6
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup bulgar, rinsed
1/2 cup millet, rinsed
2 cups cooked chickpeas or 1-14 oz can, drained and rinsed
2 large carrots, shredded
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp sugar
Large pinch cayenne
1/2 tsp salt
1 bunch fresh spinach, rinsed and torn into small pieces
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Toast sesame seeds until aromatic and golden brown. Remove from heat and let cool. Use a spice mill (or food processor) to coarsely grind the seeds. Set aside.
Add the grains to the skillet and lightly toast (they'll start crackling), 5 to 8 minutes.
In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups well-salted water to a boil. Stir in the toasted grains. Cover and cook over low heat for 20 to 25 minutes, or until both the grains are tender. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.
In a large bowl, combine the cooked grains, chickpeas, carrots, and scallion. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, basil, sugar, cayenne, and salt. Pour over the grain mixture and stir to combine. (If making this ahead, refrigerate up to a day before adding the spinach and sesame seeds).
Toss in the spinach and sprinkle with the ground sesame seeds.
Jacquelyn Scoggin became a vegetarian at the age of 16 and has since been in the kitchen whipping up meals for her family and friends. She writes and photographs her love for vegetarian food on her blog, So Good & Tasty. In 2009, she and her husband started Slide Sideways, a graphic design and handmade business. They maintain their love for the environment by using organic fabric, recycled paper, and environmentally friendly cleaning products.