Tabbouleh Mutation – Roasted Beet, Kale and Bulgur Salad

roasted beet kale and bulgur salad
I wanted to make something with bulgur that wasn’t tabbouleh, or at least not regular tabbouleh. Tabbouleh is the Middle Eastern salad of parsley, mint, tomato, and bulgur. The interesting thing about it is the proportions – herbs are the main body of the salad, and bulgur is used scantily, almost as a garnish. I wanted to take certain elements of tabbouleh, the high proportion of green to grain, sub in more interesting ingredients, and make it more substantial so it could be eaten as a meal. I replaced the parsley with red leaf kale; you can use any type of kale. Tomatoes were smelling green and sour in the market so I replaced them with roasted beets. This is an invigorating, healthy salad that you can actually feel sloughing off a multitude of dietary sins (like eating chocolate brioche for breakfast 3 times a week). My husband says he can taste the chlorophyll in it.

candy cane beets
Bulgur is a form of whole wheat that’s steamed, dried, then cracked. It’s nutty and chewy. You can taste the bran in it. Since it’s already been partially precooked, it just needs to be rehydrated in boiling water, like couscous. It comes in different sizes: fine, medium and course. The larger the grain, the longer it will need to soak.

candy cane beets
Choose an interesting assortment of beets, it makes all the difference. Pick the smallest ones, and if you can find them baby beets. I lucked out at the market and got baby candy cane beets, along with some medium sized candy canes and red beets. If you get bunched beets with the leaves still attached, if the leaves look good and fresh (not wilted) save them for another use, they taste similar to swiss chard.

beets with beet greens

kale, bulgar, roasted beet salad

Roasted Beet, Kale and Bulgur Salad

Serves 4 as a main.

For the vinaigrette:

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 a lemon
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
salt and pepper
snipped dill or chives

Whisk together lemon juice and white wine vinegar. Then very slowly whisk in the olive oil. Snip in chives or dill, or both, add salt and pepper to taste. I wanted the dressing for this salad to taste sharp and sunny with a pronounced acidity. If you find it too sharp you can reduce the amount of lemon juice and vinegar.

For the salad:

1 1/2 cups bulgur, medium size
3 cups boiling water
1 bunch red leaf kale, ribs and stems removed
assortment of interesting beets, unpeeled (I used 4 medium red, 2 medium candy cane, 9 baby candy cane)
olive oil
lemon wedges

To make the salad:

Preheat oven to 400°.

Rinse bulgur in several changes of water. You will see the bulgur start to rehydrate and soften immediately. Drain with a fine sieve. Place bulgur in a bowl, pour boiling water over and cover with a lid or plate. Let stand for 30 minutes. Taste. It should be firm and chewy. It’s not supposed to go soft like white rice. When done if there’s any unabsorbed water remaining, strain with a fine sieve. Transfer to a large bowl, pour in a glug of olive oil, stir, then let cool.

While the bulgar is soaking you can get the beets ready. Scrub beets and roast with skin on. Put a grouping of beets of the same size on a large piece of tin foil, drizzle some olive oil over top, and fold the sides of the foil up to make a tent/ bundle, you don’t need to wrap each beet individually. Put the medium size beets in one bundle and the baby beets in a separate bundle. Put beet bundles on a baking sheet or roasting pan and into the preheated oven, 30 minutes for baby beets, 45 minutes for medium sized.

beets in foil

Beets of the same size should be done at the same time so you can pull each bundle out of the oven as it’s done. Check doneness by piercing with a knife, or by cutting a beet in half and tasting a bit from the center. Peel when cool enough to handle. Slice baby beets in half and medium sized ones into chunks.

While the beets are in the oven you can do the kale. It’s a chain of events that nestle into the waiting time of each ingredient. Set up the bulgur and beets and while they’re cooking do the kale.

Triple wash and dry trimmed kale in a salad spinner, then chop into small pieces. I have a thing about triple washing greens.

bulgur and kale

Mix kale into bulgur. It will start looking like tabbouleh at this point. There should be a large proportion of green. Mix in beets (reserving a few for garnish) and vinaigrette. Serve with reserved beets over top and lemon wedges.

kale, bulgur and roasted beet salad

A note on leftovers:

Usually dressed salads don’t keep well at all, they go soggy, the greens lose their bright colour, and they generally taste horrible. This is one of those rare salads that can sit dressed overnight and actually tastes even better the next day. The beets bleed into the bulgur turning it a gorgeous fuchsia colour. The lemon juice and vinegar bring out the sweetness of the beets, they taste like they’re coated in honey.

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