Cherry, Mint, Almond Bulgur Salad with Fried Sesame Feta

The last two weeks have been an awesome but sleep-deprived blur. Ari and I had been looking to adopt a dog for awhile now and, after a few bloody mary’s at a friend’s birthday brunch, we decided to spend the rest of that beautiful Sunday looking at dogs at the North Shore Animal League. We’re so happy we did because we came home very late that night with Jax.

Neither myself or Ari grew up with dogs and we’re still adjusting. From walking and feeding schedules to figuring out vets and dog walkers, it’s been a busy couple weeks. But while spending so much quality time with this amazing addition to our family, I’ve spent less time in the kitchen. Not just for this blog, but for cooking for us as well.

Here’s Jax giving you some amazing puppy eyes:

Now that things are at a new normal and schedules are working themselves out, I’m back!

One thing I noticed that I gave up pretty quickly when I was tired and busy was breakfast. Which made me sad because I really love breakfast! I’m not a daily cereal and milk person and prefer eggs, vegetables, fruits, and breads in the morning along with my gigantic cup of coffee. I know, it takes a lot of efforts to put together a whole breakfast dish when you’re running around in the am, so let’s call this a weekend breakfast dish. Or a quick weeknight dinner. One that doesn’t take a ton of time…but tastes like it did.

Bulgur is a grain that I love to keep in the house because it’s just so incredibly easy to make. My favorite way is to mix the grain in the boiling water and let it sit, covered, for 20 minutes. Then drain the excess liquid and fluff up the grain. Bulgur has great texture and is light enough for salads so that it doesn’t weigh down or take over all the other ingredients.

We’re close to finally having fresher fruits, vegetables, and herbs again! I’m SO ready for spring to be here already and this recipe is partly an attempt to recreate fresh spring and summer flavors before we have them in the markets. In the summer, I might substitute fresh cherries but for now I’m using dried cherries. Truthfully, dried cherries can be pretty pricey, especially if you buy the tart ones without added sugar. Check your supermarket’s bulk section for cherries! I found them at Whole Foods and was able to buy just what I needed at a super affordable price.

Living in Astoria, I have eaten more than my fair share of fried cheese (saganaki) and hold a special place for crispy, warm, salty cheeses.

After some googling, I discovered that rolling the cheese in sesame seeds before frying has some Greek roots! While this isn’t a strictly Greek salad, it has Meditteranean flavors which, hopefully, will bring some warm weather feelings into your kitchen too.

In the meantime let’s work with what we’ve got to create bright and satisfying dishes! Break out this recipe on the weekends when you’re craving sweet, salty, and something totally satisfying but still a little healthy. (It has green in it!)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an adorable wiggly pup at my feet who’s super ready for some quality playtime!

Cherry, Mint, Almond Bulgur Salad with Fried Sesame Feta

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients
Salad
  • 1 cup of bulgur wheat
  • 3 cups water
  • ⅓ cup dried cherries
  • ⅓ cup lightly toasted almond slices or slivers
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ½ tsp orange zest
Fried Feta
  • 2-4 slices of Greek feta cheese, ¼-1/2 inch thick
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup flour (enough to dip the feta in)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Sesame seeds (enough to coat the feta)
  • Olive oil
Instructions
  1. Either prepare the bulgur according to the package directions or bring the three cups of water to a boil in a saucepan with a pinch of salt. Once the water is at a rolling boil add the bulgur, give it a stir, cover the pot, and take it off the heat. After 20 minutes drain the remaining water, put the bulgur into a mixing bowl, and fluff it with a fork. It should be cooked but not mush. You want it to have a bite to it still. Leave it to the side to cool.
  2. Warm the orange juice slightly. It should be warm to the touch but not hot. Add the dried cherries to the orange juice to soften and absorb some of the liquid, about 10-15 min. When you take the cherries out, make sure to reserve the orange juice to incorporate back into the dressing!
  3. If your feta came in liquid take it out and pat dry. Line up three shallow dishes for the eggs, flour, and sesame seeds. Mix in the paprika and pepper with flour. Dip the feta slices first in the eggs, then the flour, then the eggs again, and finally the sesame seeds so that they cover all the sides of the cheese.
  4. In a frying pan heat up your olive oil. I used a non-stick pan and added enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan and added more oil between batches. If your pan isn't non-stick I would add a couple more tablespoons of oil.
  5. Fry the feta about 2-3 minutes on each side over medium heat. The sesame should be a golden brown but not burnt. Lay the feta on paper towels to absorb excess oil.
  6. Mix together the bulgur, cherries, mint, and almonds and spoon into serving dish. Lay a piece of fried feta on top.
  7. In a small saucepan warm the honey over medium-low heat and whisk in the orange juice. Let them warm together about a minute. Take off the heat and whisk in the orange zest.
  8. Pour the dressing over the feta cheese so it drips down over the salad and serve!

Miso Caramel Sauce

The past couple weeks have been all over the place for me, in good ways, but it’s left me with less time than ideal to work on recipes and blogging. Things that have taken precedence – paying short-term work in the food industry, running around meeting potential pups to adopt, and some much-needed reflection time for myself.

When I started this blog six months ago, my goal was to post at least once a week and I’ve kept up that promise nearly 100%. I’m going to have to keep this one short and sweet to stick to that plan.

Although it’s really easy this week because this recipe is both super short and super sweet! Ha, unintentional parallel but it totally works! With only four ingredients, this caramel is easy to throw together and keeps in the fridge for a long while.

You might be wondering why use miso in a caramel sauce? Think of it as the salt component. We all like salted caramel right? Well, this is just that with a different version of salt, and it adds a deeper umami flavor as well.

Caramel isn’t hard to put together, but you need to keep an eye on it. I don’t have dairy (I use separate pots and pans for meat and dairy in our Kosher kitchen) heavy-bottomed pans so I had to keep the heat lower and watch it intently because it can go from being ok to being burnt in an instant.
You can see my two versions above. The one on the right was my second try, and exactly what I wanted. The one on the left is just on the edge of tasting burnt. It has a bit of a smoke taste to is but it isn’t bad and I’m going to save it for something else.

Caramel sauce is a great ingredient to have in the fridge. I put it on ice cream and popcorn, but you can also mix it into a pie, spread it on apple slices, and use it in cookies with chocolate. It’s an ingredient that is so many times better for you to make than to buy and try to decipher all the chemicals that are in it.

It’s definitely worth it,  and also one of those things that you can whip out of your refrigerator when you want to impress, well, everyone. Tell your hips I’m sorry. 

Very slightly adapted from this FOOD52 Recipe

Miso Caramel Sauce
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup of granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup of water
  • ½ cup heavy cream, warmed very slightly (just to take the chill off) or room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp white miso paste
Instructions
  1. In a heavy-bottomed high-saucepan (if you have one - if not use what you got!), mix together the water and sugar and turn the heat to medium-high (or medium if you aren't using a heavy pan). Do not mix again! Let it boil and bubble. Use a wet pastry brush if you see sugar creeping up the sides and wipe it back down.
  2. You'll begin to see the color change and take on a golden color. When it's edging towards a deep golden brown get it off the heat and stir in the cream. This will cause the caramel to bubble up but if you keep stirring it will settle down. If it seizes, put it back on the heat at a low temp and stir till it loosens.
  3. Once smooth, whisk in the miso paste. Let it cool before putting it in the fridge. Keep sticking a spoon into taste-check the temperature. It's not the only way to check (using your hands on the container is also a good way to see if it's cool enough), but it's definitely the tastiest.