Each month, when Gigi and I host the Third Thursday Community Pot Luck Dinner, we put our heads together a few days beforehand to decide what we want to make. Seasonality, of course, takes the front burner. What we find flourishing in our respective gardens figures prominently in the mix. And, then, it’s where ever else the kitchen muse directs us…
“Look at ALL these turtle beans,” Gigi said, bringing out bowls mounded with shiny purple-black pebbles. She placed them on her kitchen counter.
“I don’t know how farmers can make any money. I spent hours shelling them. I haven’t even calculated the time in planting, weeding, and harvesting.”
I nodded. “They are impressive,” I said. Who knew that you could grow black beans in Tennessee? “We will definitely showcase them in some way.”
“And, don’t forget, I have lots of peppers and garlic!” Gigi paused. “The cilantro’s gone, but its seeds are ready too.”
“Toasted coriander, ” I said.
I reminded her of the large bag—a lifetime supply, she believed–of quinoa stashed in her pantry. A Southwest themed salad, hearty, healthy, and protein-rich, seemed to be in the works…
But, what else would we make?
My little front yard farmette is but a speck, compared to Gigi’s Wedgewood Urban Gardens, however, my two lemon basil plants had grown into fragrant bushes. It would be nice to use the lot in a dish for the potluck.
I went home and stared into my own pantry—seeking a spark, a nudge, any ingredient to highlight the herb. I scanned over boxes of capellini, penne, fusilli, but pasta didn’t excite me. Brown rice, jasmine rice, arborio, no, they all seemed wrong.
Then I found a bag of bulgur wheat. Hmmmm. While parsley and mint are key to Tabouleh, it is a distinctly lemony salad. Why wouldn’t lemon basil work in place of parsley and mint?
Yes, friends, we have a winner!
In no time, I made a lemon basil pesto, which worked its lemon-scented magic in the cracked wheat. Not unlike tabouleh, but less green tasting, this salad was refreshing and summery, and turned out to be a complementary partner to the black bean-quinoa.
Side by side on the table, our potluck offerings were rather yin and yang, light and dark, crisp and soft, cool and spicy, citrus and chocolate….
LEMON BASIL CRACKED WHEAT SALAD
2 cups Cracked Bulgur Wheat
2 Lemons, for juice and zest
2 cloves Garlic
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1 bunch Lemon Basil leaves (about 1 1/2-2 cups)
Fresh Ground Black Pepper
2 ripe Tomatoes, diced
1/2 Red Onion, diced
Soak cracked wheat in fresh water for at least 15 minutes and rinse well. Set aside in a bowl.
Using the food processor with a swivel blade, make a pesto using garlic, lemon basil leaves, lemon zest, lemon juice, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Stir lemon basil pesto into the cracked wheat. Stir in diced tomatoes and onion. Set into the fridge and allow the flavors to meld into the cracked wheat.
BLACK BEAN QUINOA SALAD
2 cups Black Beans, rinsed and picked over
2 T. Olive OIl
1 Onion, diced
1 Poblano Pepper, diced (or 2-3 Jalapenos)
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tomato, chopped
1 t. Cumin
1 t. toasted Coriander Seed
1 cup Quinoa, rinsed three times, and drained
1 1/2 cups Water
1 Lime, for juice and zest
Red Pepper Flakes
For the Black Beans: (if fresh, there is no need to soak. If dried, soak the beans for at least 3 hours. Drain and rinse.)
In a 2 qt. saucepan, saute chopped onions and peppers in olive oil until onions are translucent. Add garlic and diced tomatoes. Season with cumin and coriander. Saute for 5 minutes. Add black beans and stir until beans are well coated. Add water to cover the beans, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Skim off any foam that accumulates on the top and stir. Simmer until beans are soft but still intact. Can be prepared the day before and refrigerated.
For the Quinoa:
Heat a skillet and add the well-rinsed quinoa. Stir under medium heat to toast the grain—about 5 minutes. Add water and stir. Season with salt and red pepper flakes. Cook, covered, under low heat for 30 minutes.
Stir the black beans into the quinoa mixture. Add lime zest and juice from one lime. Stir well. Sample for salt and heat, and adjust to taste.