right back where you left off.

by lisafischoff

If you’ve ever been a runner you know what it’s like to get into a rhythm and a routine. You run often and it comes easily and you miss it if you don’t run. Then one day you’re a little too busy and you skip your run. A few more days like this go by scattered through the weeks and eventually you may just flat out fall off the wagon. You’ll stop running for a while and one day you go out for a run of your usual distance – say five miles – and all of a sudden, it’s hard. You can’t breathe and your legs are tired, you have a cramp in your side. You’ve only run a mile and you’re absolutely positive your heart is going to explode right out of your chest if you take just one more step. It’s maddeningly frustrating, you never used to break a sweat until two miles. It used to be so easy but now it’s happened; you forgot how to run. Or rather it just doesn’t come as easily as it used to.

If you’ve ever practiced yoga for a consistent length of time, you know how antsy you might get if you miss a few days. How stiff your once malleable legs might become and how much you want to bend and shape them in twists and pretzel shaped forms. But time passes and with each day it becomes easier and easier not to practice. You stop going to your favorite class for a while, you know the one at the perfect time of day before dinner, the right time to demarcate the end of your day and signal you to relax for the evening – maybe even turn off your cell phone. Then one day you realize you can’t remember the last time you turned off your computer or read a book before bed and you realize how much your mind is jumping and can’t focus. So you go back. You jump right back in where you left off and, just like running, it’s hard. You forgot how to engage your core (what core?), you forgot how to press each toe evenly into the ground that supports you, you certainly can’t do that thing where you wrap your legs over your shoulder and lift your entire body into your hands, and you’ve forgotten how to clear your mind. Just like that, what came easily is now hard. You’re out of practice.

Then one day you set out for a run and realize you’re not actually going to die. You’ve run two, maybe even three miles and you’re not ready to hurl yourself over the fence along the path to cool off in the East River (a really desperate move considering the condition that water’s in). Just like that you’re once again able to lift each leg, one at a time, up into a headstand you swore you’ve never be able to do again. If you spend a little more time in savasana, that clarity of mind might even come back too. As long as you keep going to class.

This is what cooking is like for me. I’m out of practice. I didn’t know this was possible but, friends, it’s true. This is a year or so of eating nothing but peanut butter, yogurt, pizza and muffins will do to you. So before I completely forget how to chop a vegetable, let me recommend that you make this salad. Even if you cook nothing else ever again, please just assemble a giant bowl of this. I first encountered it in a cafe in Tel Aviv after some rock climbing. The engligh menu didn’t make it sound nearly as appealing as it turned out to be. Maybe because all the dishes we’re translated to english very literally – would you like pasta with meat, pasta with tomatoes, or bulgar with cucumber? Luckily bulgar with cucumber sounded the most appealing because it turned out it also had other things in it. Delicious things like dried cranberries, green apple, lentils and fresh mint! It even had a lemon pomegranate dressing! In fact it might have actually been the best salad I’ve ever eaten which is why I went back two days later to eat it again…and to write down everything I tasted.

When I got back to New York it was the first thing I made, with a few tweaks of my own, and ate it all week. Then I went back to whole foods and bought a lot of bulgar. It turns out bulgar is pretty great.

Bulgar with Cucumbers
This salad is so much more than that but I figured I’d homage to it’s original name (though it’s real name probably had a better description in Hebrew). The original had a little pomegranate juice in the dressing but since I managed to refrain from dragging one of these back in my suitcase, I just threw in some pomegranate seeds instead. They added an extra bit of crunch which was nice and if you take apart the pomegranate over a bowl it a collects a little of the juice anyway which you can toss in if you’d like.
Adapted from Cafe Tachtit / Serves 4 as a meal or 6 as a side.
1 cup dry bulgar
1/4 cup dry puy lentils
3 persian cucumbers, chopped small
1 small green apple, chopped small
1 handful dried cranberries
seeds from half a small pomegranate
1/2 bunch fresh mint, chopped carefully to avoid bruising
2 scallions, sliced thin
1 lemon
good olive oil
salt and pepper
plain whole milk or greek yogurt
Cook the bulgar and lentils separately and let cool. Mix together along with the cucumber, apple, pomegranate, mint and dried cranberries. Squeeze the lemon over the top, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Toss and serve with yogurt to toss on top. I like to do it bite by bite dipping my spoon first in the yogurt to coat, then scooping up the salad. Also holds up well in the fridge (without the yogurt) for lunch all week.

Related posts:

  1. With lemon and little else.
  2. dinner for four.
  3. 14 Days in Israel and Nana Tea
  4. Brussel Sprouts with Romano Cheese and Lentils
  5. Lisa’s Rainbow Black Bean Salad