Winter tugs at the appetite, pulling it in opposite directions.
Driving home this afternoon, snowflakes swirling across the windshield, I began to crave rich, hearty dishes—beef pot au feu, lamb tagine, spicy buffalo chili—the sort of one-pot dishes that in another century one might have eaten to keep the bodily fires stoked, while the wind and the wolves howled outside.
Maybe it’s the hibernation impulse, but snow and ice make me want to be inside, preferably near the crackling fire, curled up with a good novel, glass of rich burgundy at hand and a pot of something delicious bubbling on the stove, perfuming the house with its enticing aromas. Warm spices such as cinammon, black pepper, nutmeg and ginger are part of picture as they heat the body and keep the blood flowing.
But, oddly enough, there’s an opposing urge to tromp out into cold, especially if it’s snowing, even a little bit.
(I should mention that around here snow is rare enough that even a hint of a flurry sends most folks into a panic, clearing out the grocery shelves just in case we should happen to starve to death in the next 12 hours. But that’s also why we love it.)
And as for the winter appetite, I also have a yen for bright, sassy flavors and winter salads that lightly stave off hunger. Warm spices are part of this picture too since they add spark to the monotony of torpid diets.
Like me, you probably think of tabbouleh as a warm weather salad packed, as it is, with ripe, juicy tomatoes, cucumbers and fragrant mint. But bulgur doesn’t have to go into hibernation if you treat it as a base into which you mix roasted root vegetables, fresh herbs and spices. In this recipe I roasted carrots and shallots until they were lightly charred and sweet, then added tangy salty sundried tomatoes in olive oil. But you can use almost any winter ingredients you have on hand: Roasted cauliflower, plum tomatoes, and golden beets are three more that come to mind.
For winter salads, coarse bulgur is especially satisfying since it has more heft than the finely ground grain used in the summer version. Add skillet-toasted nuts for richness and a hint of oiliness. I emptied a bag of small Turkish pistachios from Kalustyan’s into my tabbouleh, but walnuts or almonds would be equally delicious. Plump “new crop” pecans could give the salad a purely American spin. Add lots of chopped parsley and a little fresh mint and you’re already starting to shake the winter blahs.
Now pull it all together with a touch of sweet and sour pomegranate molasses whisked with lemon juice, olive oil, and just enough Ceylon cinnamon and cumin to make you wonder about the warm flavors dancing across your palate.
Sprinkle a few ruby-colored pomegranate seeds over the salad before serving. Not only will they glow like jewels, but their irresistible flavor may remind you of Persephone and how she came to spend part of each year underground in the kingdom of Hades—and why we have winter here on earth.
Jeweled Pomegranate Tabbouleh with Roasted Carrots and Pistachios
To serve four as a side dish
Ingredients for the tabbouleh:
4 cups carrots, cut into ½ inch dice
12 shallots, peeled and cut into halves, or quarter if very large
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
¼ cup sundried tomatoes in olive oil, chopped
½ cup shelled pistachios, roasted and lightly salted (or skillet-toasted walnuts, almonds or pecans)
1 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1 heaping tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
1 cup coarse bulgur
3 cups warm water, plus more if needed
Ingredients for the dressing:
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons Ceylon cinnamon, or ¾ teaspoon cassia
½ teaspoon ground cumin
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
For the garnish:
1 heaping tablespoon fresh pomegranate seeds
1. Set the oven to 500 degrees. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. In a bowl, toss the carrots and shallots in olive oil and sprinkle generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast the vegetables for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven, turn them with a spatula and roast for 10 minutes more, until they are slightly charred (not burned) and soft. Remove and spread on a plate to cool.
2. While the vegetables are cooling, place the bulgur in a medium bowl and pour 3 cups of warm water over it. Add enough water to cover the bulgur by one inch. Let sit for 20 minutes, then drain thoroughly in a strainer. The grains should be firm but chewy.
3. For the dressing, combine the pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, salt, and freshly ground pepper in a bowl. After the salt has dissolved, whisk in the Ceylon cinnamon and cumin, followed by the olive oil.
3. Make the tabbouleh: In a large bowl, combine the bulgur, carrots, shallots, sun dried tomatoes, pistachios, parsley and mint. Pour the dressing over the grain mixture and stir gently to combine. Taste and correct seasonings.
4. Just before serving, sprinkle the fresh pomegranate seeds over the salad. Best served at room temperature.