Bulghar Salad with Black Beans, Avocado, Corn and Hearts of Palm

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I would like to take this opportunity to complain.  I feel like I’ve been cheated.  I’ve been had, and yet it’s nobody’s fault but my own.  I went to the grocery store because I started to get the ingredients ready for this salad and realized that I had eaten all of our black beans, hearts of palm, and at some point I threw out the leftover cilantro when it started to get slimy and tried to slink it’s way out of the fridge.  Oh yes, and we needed milk and bread to satiate Mike’s peanut butter sandwich cravings.   I had a ten spot  in my purse, figuring that would be ample enough, but the bill came to over $20.  I was appalled, and although I don’t normally do this I scrutinized that bill, sure that the cashier made a mistake…..She hadn’t.   Apparently hearts of palm are $5.99 for an undersized tin.  Ridiculous, I say!!!

I was so angry at the hearts of palm that I almost didn’t use them.  Sure, in the greater scheme of things, $5.99 isn’t all that much money.  I mean, that’s the price of the last pint at the pub which I probably shouldn’t have had and which made it’s way back up to be…uh….wasted money anyway.  But that, sadly, I was expecting.  Inflated prices for hearts of palm, I was not.

I got home and stalked into the kitchen, indignant in my outrage, and ready to spew a mass of hate out to hearts of palm the world over.  Or maybe just Loblaws.  Either, or.  With sweeping gestures I told Mike the story, complete with the humiliation of having to use Visa for a $22 payment, and then stood waiting for my vindication.

He shrugged.

“But…this is exactly what you said the LAST time you bought hearts of palm….”

Oh. Huh.

(what a jackass for bringing THAT up….)

So maybe my indignation is a bit misguided.  Maybe I should have just KNOWN that hearts of palm are ridiculously overpriced (for a CAN!  A CAN!!!  THEY’RE A CANNED GOOD!!!!!!) and opted for something else instead, but I didn’t.  Serves me right, I suppose.  And really, I’m quibbling over $5.99.  It’s not exactly the down payment on a house, and I freely spend $50 more than I wanted to on that perfect pair of slingbacks which just happen to be on sale, so I suppose there’s that too. And if I still need reinforcement, well, I used up some of my burghul in the pantry.  I have about $10 worth of various types of burghul in my pantry, which doesn’t SOUND like a lot, but that’s possibly because burghul is so cheap.  That $10 worth of grains would actually produce enough burghul pilaf to keep the better part of a North African nation well fed for a week.  So…..yeah.  I’m down with making grainy salads, right now.  Even if hearts of palm are a debilitatingly awful waste of money….okay, the bitterness is working it’s way out, but just one step at a time.

Bulghar Salad with Black Beans, Corn and Hearts of Palm

Serves 8 as a side dish, 4 as a vegetarian meal

  • 3 small corn cobs
  • 1/4 large red onion
  • 1.5 avocado
  • 1 can (15.5 oz) black beans
  • 1 can (15.5 oz) hearts of palm
  • 1 cup coarse burghul
  • 2 limes
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 -2 tsp tabasco *
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • small bunch cilantro (about 1/4 cup chopped)
  • salt and pepper to taste

* We used 2, and it’s really not all that spicy, but to each their own.

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Bulghar (aka ‘burgal’, ‘bulgar’, ‘burghul’, etc) is a derivative of crushed, parboiled wheat. The size of the grain varies from the fine grain bulghar that you would use in Tabouli all the way to a quite coarse grind that has grains which look closer to kasha. More importantly, even if you buy the same size of grind, different varieties of burghul/bulghar will vary in terms of their cooking process.

There is a ‘summer bulghar’ which is sometimes a bit lighter in color. It has already been precooked and you just need to soak it in water for hydration. This is the most common type of bulghar that you’ll find in the Western world. However, there is also a ‘winter bulghar’ which is ground and not precooked. For the winter bulghar you’ll want to simmer it in a covered pot for about 20 minutes, exactly how you cook rice. The thing is, when you buy bulghar it’s not going to tell you. Oh, no no no. Those bulghar manufacturers are a sneaky bunch. Cooking instructions? I think not. Well, at least not if you buy Krinos. The good thing is that when you’re using bulghar in a salad, as long as you soak it you will usually be just fine….it’s just that some varieties will take much longer to soak than others…..

That said, I’m assuming that you will be using ‘summer bulghar’, which is really much more prevalent. I’m tempted to tell you to boil it, just because I have a feeling that it might incite enough rage in my father to actually post a comment on this site (instead of just calling me every day to tell me what I did wrong. Yeah, you heard me, Dad. Consider that a challenge) but that would be rather spiteful of me. Do not boil your bulghar unless the package specifically directs you to. Boiled bulghar turns to mush, which is tragic. Bulghar should keep it’s shape and still be hearty and toothsome with just the slightest bit of chew, even after it’s been rehydrated. Note: I said “rehydrated”, not “cooked”.

Put the bulghar in a bowl and cover it with about 1 inch of warm water. Cover the container, and let it sit. After 10 minutes, test the bulghar. Take a few grains and chew them. If they’re crunchy, let them continue to soak and test in another 10 minutes. The Krinos bulghar that I used needed to soak for 30 minutes before it was tender but toothsome, but I have used coarse bulghar in the past that needed a scant 10 minutes of soaking before it was ready. By contrast, the fine bulghar that I’m currently using for tabouli needs no more than a swish around in cold water, a quick drain, and then sits (squeezed dry) for a half hour before it’s ready. As soon as the burghul has lost it’s crunch, let it sit, covered, for a half hour while you prepare the rest of the salad.

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Preheat your oven to 425ºF.

Wrap the corn cobs in aluminum foil and tuck them into the oven to cook for 30 minutes, or until they’re fragrant and bright yellow.

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But in the mean time, as the corn cooks, finely chop the 1/4 red onion.  Cut the heart of palm lengthwise into halves or quarters depending on size, and then into big chunks about 1/2 inch thick.

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Squeeze the juice of 2 limes into a bowl and add the honey, cumin and tabasco.  Press or grate the garlic into the bowl, and slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly as you do so.  Season the dressing with salt and pepper.

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Pare the kernels off the corn…..

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…and finely mince the cilantro, stems and all.  I love cilantro stems because they’re so flavorful and they just have that delightful watery crunch.

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Drain and rinse the can of beans, and cut the avocado into cubes about 1/3″ big.  Pile all of the salad ingredients into a bowl and toss with the dressing, and season again with salt and pepper if necessary.

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I’m a sucker for corn and black beans.  Or  for black beans and rice.  And maybe just beans. Well, whatever.  We all have out little favorites, don’t we?  So what if my favorites cause ridiculous flatulence and an engorged belly.  At least I’m happy.

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Also, as far as ‘virtuous’ salads go, I find it hard to feel guilty eating this.  And let me tell you, I have a knack for food related guilt.  Not that I don’t eat my guilt-inducing foods, mind you, but I always feel just a bit rotten after I do.  Not with this salad, though.  The flavors are just so bright and you’re getting all sorts of GOOD fats,with fiber and vegetables, and avocados to make your hair shiny, and …..well, it’s just light, fresh, and delicious.  And cheap.  Don’t forget cheap.  God, I love bulghar, where $2 will feed a family of 8.

Oh, but if you’re not vegetarian, try this salad on the side of Mango Chili Flank Steak….we did.

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  • http://www.kalofagas.ca Peter

    That’s a mighty fine salad…it screams “PICNIC”! For a safer experience when slicing the corn off the cob, cut your cob in half and then slice down…little chance of a knife accident. 😉

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      I like to live on the edge.

      We had the Food Network’s 100 Mile show on last night over dinner. One of the women who was an accomplished home chef was challenged to work on a restaurant line for lunch. She did a great job, but that’s the one tip they gave her as well – were you watching?

  • http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com kristie

    I researched for you, because I care. You can get a case of 12 cans of hearts of palm on Amazon for under $35. And THAT is why I buy in bulk and have to keep the closet in our spare bedroom (all the way upstairs) filled with cases of food.

  • http://foodhappens.blogspot.com lo

    Mmm. We’ve been making salads at the beginning of the week to take to lunch at work — and this looks like the perfect candidate.

    Kristie –
    You’re my hero. We, too, have a closet filled with food. And a basement pantry besides!

  • http://closetcooking.blogspot.com Kevin

    I like whol grain salads like this and this one sounds good!

  • Cheryl

    This is awesomely tasty and I’ve made it twice now. I just thought I’d point out that the cilantro is missing from the ingredients list (and that the salad is also tasty when you forget the cilantro).

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Bah haha! Oh, Cheryl. I may only be capable of remembering two things each day. When I wrote that, I obviously already expended myself with “Put on clean underwear” and “Remove keys before locking car”! Thank you kindly, that has been corrected.

      Also, thank you so much for stopping by our blog, and trying out this salad!! I’m so glad that you enjoyed it! Bulghar isn’t exactly a glamorous grain and it gets so frequently overlooked, so I’m always just delighted when people build it into their repertoire of starch!

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  • Rebecca

    Get your Hearts of Palm at BJ’s Club. You can get 2- 32 oz glass jars for under $10 bucks! Trying out this recipe right now – tks!