After sipping on Lagunitas’s Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ this week, I tasked myself with the challenge of coming up with the right pairing for it. Although its aroma is a powerful mix of fruity American hops, the body is light for all that fruitiness and the finish is crisp, bitter, and dry. This makes it a particular challenge for food, as it’s not heavy enough to stand up to a lot of dishes, but has a profound aroma that will overpower just about everything. I started looking for something light in flavor that would essentially stand out of the way of the beer.
I recently received the gift of a wonderful book on vegetarian cooking called Vegetarian Entrees that Won’t Leave You Hungry by Lukas Volger. I’m not in general too concerned about vegetarian dishes leaving me hungry, I eat plenty that leave me full and satisfied, but setting aside the title, this book is a treasure trove of great vegetarian recipes by an inventive vegetarian chef. (I’ve been experimenting with veggie burger recipes out of his equally brilliant first book, Veggie Burgers Every Which Way). Whether or not you are a vegetarian, Volger’s two books are perfect candidates to become staples for your cookbook shelf; particularly, in fact, if you’re simply trying to eat less meat and want diverse, flavorful recipes.
I started searching for a light grain salad dish, and found the lovely Bulgar Salad with Kale and Feta. It has a kind of Mexican flare with the addition of cumin seeds, jalapenos, and cilantro. However, since I don’t like cilantro and didn’t want something so spicy with this moderately bodied (and flavored) beer, I decided to spin the recipe into tabouleh territory by taking out the jalapenos, reducing the kale, and adding parsley and diced tomatoes. The result was an enticingly aromatic (and very filling) meal that smelled of toasted cumin and was bouyed by the fresh bitterness of the parsley and some feta mixed in between the grains of bulgar.
It was also the perfect canvas for the Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’. Though aromatic, the flavor of the dish was muted, which allowed the aroma of the beer to also have its glorious, fruity moment in the sun, while bringing out the flavor that emerges as the beer warms.
Bulgar, Kale and Parsley Salad
- 1 cup bulgar
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 yellow onion, sliced into strips
- 3 oz kale, cut in strips
- 2 oz parsley, chopped
- 1 tomato, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 4 oz feta
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup lightly colored beer (Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ will work) or white wine
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp olive oil
Cook the bulgar in 2 cups of water the same way you would rice, bringing water to a simmer and then cooking on low until done.
In the meantime, over medium heat, saute the cumin seeds for about 30 seconds, then add onion and cook until browned around the edges. Add the garlic and salt, then pour in the beer (or wine) to deglaze the pan. Add the kale and cook until soft and the liquid is evaporated, about 6 minutes.
Move to mixing bowl, allow to cool, then add bulgar, tomatoes, parsley, feta, and olive oil. Salt to taste.
Great served warm or cold.