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Power-packed salads using quinoa, bulgar fit the bill

Experimentation with super ingredients resulted in several top-drawer salad creations

It's become a nightly game to create a standout dinner that fits within the Oregon Food Bank $1 per person per meal budget allocation. This past week I've been experimenting with salads hearty enough to sustain teenagers and I've hit on several keepers.

My current experiments involve quinoa and bulgur and I'm liking what I am tasting. These grains are packed with protein and fiber and their toothsome texture is an added bonus.

Quinoa is not technically a grain but the seed of an herb called goosefoot. Goosefoot is grown primarily for its edible seeds - quinoa - but the leaves are eaten in Europe as a leaf vegetable, much like amaranth.

Native to the Andes Mountains of South America, quinoa grows best in well-drained soils and requires a relatively long growing season.

Quinoa is often called a 'supergrain' because it contains more protein than any grain. Unlike wheat or rice, quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids, making it an unusually complete food.

It takes less quinoa protein to meet one's needs than wheat protein. It is also a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron.

Quinoa is gluten free and considered easy to digest. And it has great texture and flavor.

Bulgur is a Middle Eastern grain that got stuck with a not-very-appealing moniker. Much tastier than its name suggests, bulgur is what is left after wheat kernels have been steamed, dried, and crushed. It is an inexpensive source of low-fat protein.

Being high in fiber and protein and low in fat and calories, bulgur is a natural weight loss food. It offers bulk and nutrients to fill you up without adding pounds.

Bulgur is an 'off the charts superstar' when you are talking about fiber content. Just like whole wheat it can help keep your digestive tract healthy. The insoluble fiber it contains absorbs water, promoting faster elimination of waste which ultimately inhibits the development of carcinogens.

You can purchase bulgur in three grinds - coarse, medium and fine. Coarse is used for making pilaf and stuffing; medium grind is used in cereals or salads and the finest grind is suitable for tabbouleh.

My experimentation with quinoa and bulgur resulted in a number of top drawer salads. Family members gave 'two thumbs up' to the grains' texture and flavor and I added a chalkmark in the 'win' category for keeping within my $4 limit.

Carolyn Heymann, our inspiration in creating menus that fit the $3 a day per person budget, wants your recipes that fit the criteria.

She will share more recipes, if you do. Please e-mail them to the address below.

Following is my recipe for a salad power packed with quinoa, bulgur and spinach. It's a keeper, if I do say so myself!

Quinoa, Bulgur and Spinach Salad with Feta Cheese

Serves 4-6 as a main dish

1/3 cup quinoa

4 cups water

1 ½ teaspoons salt

1/3 cup medium bulgur

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

¼ teaspoon black pepper

8 brine-cured black olives, such as Kalamata, pitted and cut into slivers

8 radishes, quartered and thinly sliced

2 ounces feta, coarsely crumbled (1/2 cup)

4 cups fresh spinach, cleaned and stems trimmed

2 medium ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded and cut in 1/2 inch dice

1 medium red or yellow bell pepper, cut in 1/2 inch dice

1 half English cucumber, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice

Wash quinoa in three changes of cold water in a bowl, draining in a sieve between changes of water.

Stir together quinoa, 4 cups water, ¾ teaspoon salt in a 2 to 3 quart saucepan, and simmer, uncovered until quinoa is just tender and germ starts to separate from grain, about 20 minutes. Drain well in sieve, then transfer to a medium bowl.

While quinoa is simmering, cover bulgur with warm water by two inches and soak until tender and chewy, about 10 minutes. Drain well in a sieve, then stir in drained quinoa. Cool grains completely, about 20 minutes.

While grains cool, stir together oil, lemon juice, pepper and remaining ¾ teaspoon salt in a small bowl and let stand 15 minutes, then stir into grains along with olives, radishes, feta and spinach, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. Serve immediately.

NOTE: Grains can be made ahead and kept, chilled and covered, for one day. Bring to room temperature while dressing stands.

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached by phone at 503-635-8811 or by

e-mail brandall

@lakeoswegoreview.com