Black Lentil and Bulgur Salad with Carrot Greens Pesto

Even with its unbearable heat waves, summer is a luxurious time of year. I wish I could grab it by its tail, harness it and slow it down. I love the flowers in every yard, walkway and park. The plants bearing fruits and vegetables, and the farmers bringing their best to the market.

With July gone, we are down to August and September, and then is winter. Unless we get a long enough fall to drown our sorrows before the snow stars to pile. I shouldn’t be thinking about winter and should just enjoy the present, the hot weather, and the abundance from the land.

My new weekly ritual includes a trip to the Union Station Farmers Market, which is proving educational. We’ve had markets in Denver on previous years, but none that accumulated the quantity and quality of locally grown produce that this, new to the city, market is bringing.

For years, I envied the Boulder and Longmont markets, and traveled at last once a month during the summer to indulge on buying produce grown just a few miles away; now they travel every Saturday to bring their produce to us in Denver.

union station farmers market denver

Many meals and cooking ideas spring every week based on what’s available, a concept I didn’t follow particularly close before I challenged myself to cook the majority of our meals using only seasonal produce. By seasonal, I mean whatever is in season around me, or at least in the United States especially during the winter months, not including Hawaii, I haven’t bought a pineapple in years, and not including snow and sticks from our Colorado winter harvest.

Some meals are simple variations using, for example, different types of cucumbers {which just this year, after 15 years in the U.S. and 13 of those in the kitchen I found they are nicknamed “cukes”} like lemon cucumbers in a cucumber-tomato salad dressed with carrot greens pesto.

lemon cucumbers

Other meals, like this Bulgur and Lentil Salad, are born out of the necessity for an easy to take lunch that’s nutritious and simple to make, all while providing a punch of flavor to keep me from stopping at the burrito place nearby for a second snack.

lentil bulgur salad

Bulgur is the cracked and partially cooked pieces of wheat, most often durum wheat. It has a slightly nutty taste and, like any other grain, it absorbs any flavor you add to it, especially if added when it’s still hot. It’s used in Tabbouleh, with loads of chopped parsley, diced cucumbers and tomatoes, which was my starting point for this salad.

Lentils are a power house of nutrients, and my favorite food. I’m always looking up ways to use them or to add them to existing meals, and they are {on a semi daily basis} the perfect answer to the call for protein in my lunch box. A friend at work tells me “I don’t think I had ever seen lentils this much and this often before!”

Instead of chopped parsley I wanted a sauce to round the flavors and enhance each element of the salad, and since the carrot greens pesto has become the star of my refrigerator, and a budget hero by allowing me to use bunches of greens I’d otherwise compost, it was only fair to include some here.

vegan bulgur and lentil salad

Beet greens make a great substitute to salad greens. I make sure to use greens that are not discolored or have purple or brown spots or blotches, as those are sign of disease and most likely not too tasty. Shaved carrots add color and sweetness, while lemon cucumbers add crunch, and the refreshing taste of summer. A sprinkle of sunflower seeds is the perfect element to finish the salad.

And as for summer, I’ll continue gardening and fighting the bunnies for the beans, I’ll keep cheering the tomatoes to turn red and juicy, and I’ll continue to visit the market until the first snow flake falls.

Black Lentil and Bulgur Salad with Carrot Greens Pesto
20 minute prep – meal in 1 hour
Servings depend on whether you use it as a main course or as a side dish, enough for 4

Bulgur wheat cooks just like pasta:

  • Boil water
  • Add salt
  • Drop the bulgur
  • Cook until tender
  • Drain and dress with part of the pesto while hot

You can substitute quinoa or brown rice for the bulgur wheat if you are following a gluten-free diet.

The carrot greens pesto  is a cost-effective substitution to traditional pesto. I didn’t use cheese in the recipe, one because it doesn’t really need it, and two because I wanted to share it with my vegan friends.

Lentils cook in 30-40 minutes (except the small orange lentils which cook in about 20 minutes and become quite soft, lumpy and soupy.) I like to use either the black “caviar” or the French green lentils. They are small, but hold their shape really well when cooked.  I add cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, a mashed garlic clove and a piece of onion to infuse their flavor as the lentils simmer, until tender.

1/2 cup bulgur wheat
2 cups of water

  • Cook bulgur following the directions above, or just like boiling pasta. Once tender, drain and add 1/4 cup of pesto. Let it rest.

1/2 cup lentils, black “caviar” or French green
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 smashed garlic clove
1 small piece of onion

  • Add all the ingredients to a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently until the lentils are tender, 30-40 minutes. Add more water if lentils are still hard and water level is low. Drain excess water once lentils are tender.

Finish the Salad
3 lemon cucumbers or 1 medium cucumber, diced
2 small carrots, shaved or grated (farmer’s market carrots are smaller than grocery store carrots, so judge your carrots and decide how much you would like to add)
1 cup chopped beet greens
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds or pepitas (optional)

1/2 cup carrot greens pesto

  •  Add the cooked lentils to the bulgur and mix with a fork, “fluffing” it gently {I know that sounds funny, but you don’t want to work the mixture too much, it can get mushy}.
  • In a separate bowl toss the beets greens, cucumber and carrots with the remaining 1/4 cup of pesto. Season with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper, and add it to the bulgur lentil mixture.
  • Fold gently and let rest to incorporate all the flavors.
  • Add more pesto if needed, based on your preference

~ Paula


4 thoughts on “Black Lentil and Bulgur Salad with Carrot Greens Pesto”

  1. This vegetarian recipe looks awesome, can’t wait to try it. I haven’t cooked with bulgur before, and it sounds like a great addition to my rotation. Thanks!

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