Fresh Corn and Cherry Tomatoes

I have written about this dish before: before the addition of photos to the blog, before beginning this CSA cooking project, and long before it was the height of corn and tomato season, that is.  It’s worth repeating now with a kitchen full of both.  Chewy, nutty-tasting bulgur wheat, just-picked summer vegetables, the refreshing zing of lemon juice, this is a cool side dish wheat salad using late summer’s sweetest and juiciest at their peak.

Today, I must put the emphasis on “cool.”  To prepare the bulgur, I light a flame under one pan only, and only very briefly.  It’s hardly cooking at all.  Bulgur is essentially a whole grain type of couscous.  Like couscous, bulgur is made from mostly durum wheat, but wheat that retains a good part of the outer husk of bran.  But unlike brown rice with its outer bran covering, Bulgur doesn’t need a long boil to cook.  The grains have been partially boiled and then dried before packaging so, as with Moroccan couscous, bulgur needs only to steam in order to complete the cooking process.

The quick cooking method, together with and a healthy addition of wonderful seasonal ingredients, make Bulgur Wheat with Corn and Tomatoes the perfect summer side dish.  The dish’s simplicity allows the toasted bulgur and the sweet farm produce to shine.  But you would not be wrong to toss in a little chopped parsley or a delicate chiffonade of basil.

Over the cusp days of late summer/early fall summer, when it’s safe to turn on the oven for long stretches of time, I often toss a mixture of cooled pan-roasted vegetables such as eggplant, red pepper, and yellow squash into the room temperature bulgur in place of the tomato and corn, and that dish tastes just as wonderful.

You’ll find bulgur in bulk bins or often packaged in the rice aisle of your grocery store.  Loose, you may even find bulgur in a variety of grinds; fine, medium, coarse, and extra coarse are the most common.  The already packaged bulgur tends to be sold in the medium grain, which is fine for the following recipe.

Toasted Bulgur Wheat with Corn, Tomatoes, and Scallions

I specify sea salt here because this is a dish where, when finished, the taste of the salt matters.  Every subtle flavor should be in balance, from the toast on the bulgur to the delicate sweetness of the corn and tomatoes to the zip of citrus, and a clean tasting salt will enhance rather than overwhelm.  The flaky Maldon salt is wonderful but a finer grind salt will work too.

  • 1 cup bulgur wheat, medium grind
  • 1 ¾ cups cold water
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 pint of cherry or grape or pear tomatoes, either red, yellow, or a mixture of both
  • 3-4 ears of the freshest corn you can find
  • 6 scallions
  • olive oil
  • sea salt to taste

Heat a large flat-bottomed skillet over medium heat.  Add bulgur wheat to the dry pan to toast, stirring often.  Bulgur goes from toasted to burned quickly, so remove the pan from the heat when the bulgur is nicely browned.

Immediately add the water and lemon juice, stir, then cover the pan with a tight fitting lid.  Set the pan aside for 20-30 minutes while the bulgur absorbs all the liquid.

After 30 minutes, check the bulgur wheat.  If all the liquid has been absorbed, fluff the grains lightly with a fork and turn the wheat into a large bowl to cool.  (If the liquid hasn’t been absorbed completely, give the wheat a few more minutes.)  Add just a splash of olive oil and toss lightly with a fork to coat.

Prepare your vegetables.  Wash and thinly slice the scallions.  Halve the tomatoes.  Cut the corn kernels off the cobs.  When the bulgur has cooled, add the vegetables to it and mix gently to evenly distribute.

Add sea salt only to taste, a little at a time to avoid over salting the dish.

Refrigerate until mealtime and serve.  This salad tastes best the same day it is made but leftovers can be eaten the next day.

©2010  Jane A. Ward