Banana-Cardamom Breakfast Bulgar

Ever since I found myself out of oats one day and subbed in bulgar, it's become my preferred hot cereal grain. I've explored an infinite number of variations on the theme, one of my favorites being adding mashed banana (think: banana bread in a bowl). Reinforced with bran and flax, backed by a team of nuts (chopped almonds) and seeds (sunflower), and laced with floral honey, the bulgar essentially puts you on a path for a good day. But, since I perpetually reach for new ways to elevate (and/or re-create) my recipes, I gave cardamom a rookie shot in this particular batch, knowing its flavor would bring a new dimension to the cereal. I've been on a cardamom kick for a while, loving its versatility and the way that it weaves spicy-sweetness throughout a dish. Here it pairs magically with banana -- this might be my favorite version so far. 


1 cup bulgar wheat 
1/4 cup wheat bran
2 (heaping) Tbsp ground flax seed
1 cup almond milk 
2 cups water, divided 
1 banana, mashed 
2 Tbsp honey  
1/4 cup roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds 
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted almonds, roughly chopped 
Ground cardamom, to taste

1. In a medium saucepan, bring almond milk and 1 cup water to a boil. Add bulgar, wheat bran and ground flax and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes -- adding additional water as it absorbs.

2. Meanwhile, mash one banana and roughly chop the almonds. Set aside.

3. When the water is nearly absorbed -- the bulgar should be creamy, yet retain its texture -- stir in honey, mashed banana, almonds and sunflower seeds. Add cardamom, a bit at a time, adjusting to taste as preferred.

4. Serve with additional honey drizzled on top and/or more milk as you prefer.


Fork-Crushed Purple Potatoes

There's something so majestic about eating purple potatoes. It's like by the nature of their color they are elevated to royal status among the spuds. I've made this recipe a few times and what I love most about it (besides the fork-stabbing) is watching the reaction that happens when the purple potato flesh is hit with lemon juice. The 'taters emerge from their boiling bath a deep violet color, but then you hit them with a splash of acidity and (like magic) the sprinkled spots lighten to a warmer magenta. It's super cool to watch and creates this beautiful tie-dye of purple shades throughout the dish. 

Visual transformation aside, the flavors of this dish are also noteworthy. I've never had a strong affinity for mashed potatoes (in fact, I typically find them quite dull) but here lemon juice, white pepper and red onion brighten their starchy disposition beautifully. Parsley is a great finishing garnish, but this time I folded in some fresh rosemary since it has been my herb-of-choice lately. Both are equally delicious. With a spontaneous handful of crushed hazelnuts to top, these purple 'taters are lookin' and tastin' darn good.

[Adapted from smitten kitchen

1 pound purple potatoes, washed 
1 small red onion, minced 
2 1/2 Tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice 
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
salt, to taste 
white pepper, to taste 
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
crushed hazelnuts

1. Bring salted water to boil in a large pot. Add potatoes and cook (skins on) until fork-tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and peel potatoes while still warm (or leave skins on if preferred).

2. Place potatoes in a large bowl and smash them gently with a fork, leaving the consistency chunky.  Fold in minced onion, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, white pepper and rosemary. Chopped hazelnuts make a great garnish.


Red Grape and Rosemary Sauce

This is what happens when grapes take a stew in sugar and red wine vinegar: they lose control and their sweet nectar starts oozing out of their skins. As the skins break down, the crisp tartness that the grapes had while fresh transitions to a rich, jammy flavor. Before it gets too syrupy, the vinegar cuts in to curb the sweetness and play up the fruit's acidic notes. Here, the earthly flavor of fresh rosemary makes the perfect partner to the grapes, finishing the sauce with a rustic flair.  


2 cups red seedless grapes, rinsed and dried
2 sprigs fresh rosemary (about 1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp chopped)
3 tsp sugar
1 tsp honey (more to drizzle as preferred)
1/2 tsp fresh minced ginger
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
salt & pepper, to taste

1. In a medium saucepan or skillet combine grapes, rosemary, sugar, honey, ginger and vinegar. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the grapes begin to break down. (You can mash slightly with a fork to aid the process). 

2. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. The sauce makes a delicious marriage with rosemary-rubbed pork tenderloin (see below). 


Lemon Zested Pea Soup

Lemon zest and parsley bring spring-like freshness to this quick pureed pea soup. Diluted white wine acts as the liquid agent, lending fruity notes and further brightness, while crushed walnuts bring meaty contrast to the soup's velvety texture. A perfect segue to spring (especially when you use fresh peas). 
Featured in "Best of the Blogs" on FineCooking.com. 


1 lb frozen peas (or fresh) 
 1 cup celery, diced 
 1/2 red onion, diced 
 1 Tbsp olive oil 
 2 cups water 
 1 cup white wine 
 1/4 cup fresh parsley 
 1-2 tsp lemon zest 
 juice of 1 lemon

1. Heat olive oil in a medium dutch oven or pot. Saute celery and onion until soft and aromatic.

2. Add frozen peas, water and wine. Bring to boil and simmer until peas are cooked and bright green, about 7 minutes. 

3. Cool slightly and puree with an immersion blender (or regular blender). Add salt and pepper to taste, along with lemon juice and zest. Stir in freshly chopped parsley. Garnish with cracked black pepper, crushed walnuts and additional parsley if desired. Serve warm.