Friday, January 23, 2009

Warm Bulgur Wheat Salad with Poached Egg

I started out with the best intentions. A delicious, healthy, and flavorful lunch was what I was after. And then I opened the door to the fridge and found some leftover pancetta that needed to be used. So, granted, the calorie count shot up, but I’m not sorry. Not only did I succeed in two out of the three initial requirements I had for my lunch, but I also succeeded in ending up with a clean refrigerator.

I often use bulgur wheat as a main starch when I am sick to death of couscous and/or pasta and/or bread. It has a great bite to it and its wheaty flavor stands out in a way that other starches blend in. It’s a cinch to make and is delicious hot or cold. Although I had the time to poach an egg separately today to lay over top this dish, I have also had success cracking an egg into the hot bulgur and stirring to cook, which gives the finished product a nice, creamy texture without everything sticking together.

All in all, a very successful lunch for a very successful day off.

Warm Bulgur Wheat Salad with pancetta, mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach and poached egg - (serves 2)

200g bulgur wheat, cooked according to packet instructions and drained of any excess liquid
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup mixed seeds (use any combination of pumpkin, sesame, linseed, sunflower etc.)
Bag of baby spinach
Punnet of mushrooms, sliced (I used chestnut mushrooms here)
2 large shallots, diced
1/3 cup pancetta, cubed
Pinch dried chilies
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/200 degrees C. Place the cherry tomatoes cut side up in a small roasting pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes until the edges begin to char.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm up a few tablespoons of olive oil and toss in the pancetta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta begins to brown, then toss in the shallots. When the shallots are softened and translucent, add the sliced mushrooms, the chilies if desired and a pinch of salt. Continue to sauté and stir occasionally.

Toast the seeds in a dry frying pan over low heat, taking care to toss them and not to let them burn—this should take a total of about 5 or 6 minutes. Place a small saucepan of water over medium low heat for the poached eggs. Add the spinach to the pancetta mushroom mixture, turn off the heat and cover to allow it to wilt.

Assemble the toasted seeds, roasted tomatoes and cooked bulgur. When the spinach is wilted (it may take a stir or two to accomplish this), add the tomatoes, bulgur and toasted seeds to the saucepan and toss together.

Drop the cracked eggs gently into their simmering water and allow them to poach about 2-3 minutes then fish them out with a slotted spoon.

Plate the warm bulgur salad on two plates, finish with a final sprinkling of toasted seeds and a twist of black pepper. Top each dish with a poached egg. Enjoy your day off.