I’ve been sitting on this dish, waiting to share it with you until after all my early month blogging events were over. It turns out to be extra timely now, because I re-created it again tonight for a potluck party we were attending, and it was yummy once again–and pretty flexible, as the second time I grabbed what I had on hand and changed some of it around.
Before I share the dish, however, I want to talk for a moment about feeding elementary aged kids. I know for the most part I have very UN-picky kids. They don’t bat an eye at being told they are eating stir fries, curries, or frankly anything. I cannot think of a single word that causes them to be taken aback when it comes to food, except maybe insects, and I have even convinced them to eat those! However, I have noticed that the longer they have been in school, and therefore exposed to other kids’ eating habits and opinions, the pickier they have gotten. Dishes that are super similar to dishes they once devoured they now stare at suspiciously. And as I was sitting and listening to Carol Byrd-Bredbenner as she spoke at Live Well 2013 last week, I had this revelation:
I have allowed our dinners to turn into battlegrounds, when I always swore that was the last thing I would do.
Why? How? Well, I cook a lot of dessert, as you may have noticed. I actually am ok with my kids having dessert every day (please don’t throw things) because one of the great things about dessert being common is that it is not exciting. And because it is not exciting, really small portions are accepted. My kids will walk away from a slice of cake half finished, because they are full and they know they will have dessert again another day. It is nothing special. However, in my frustration at them refusing to eat, for example, this awesome salad being shared here (when I know darn well that Alex, for example, loves bulgur, loves chickpeas, has no problem with farro, etc etc), I was turning dinner into a hoop that needed to be jumped through to get to dessert. The entire time Carol was speaking about this I wanted to hide under the table. Especially because I pride myself on raising adventurous, polite eaters. But Carol is right–by turning my dinners into hoops to be jumped through, the dinners become not just unpleasant from the fighting but also it is as though I am conceding that dinners are something unpleasant you just have to get through.
Perfect example of issue: Alex saw the carrot-pistachio pesto and immediately decided it look weird. Before she went to school, it never occurred to her to consider the appearance of dishes I made “weird”.
So I came home and immediately set about upending things. Dessert is no longer tied to dinner, but rather happens about an hour after dinner, to keep it unconnected. I also told the kids they were now in charge of serving themselves, and that I was no longer going to tell them they had to eat “so” much. The change has been pretty instantaneous. Suddenly the kids are on board with whatever I serve; as a friend put it tonight, it is as though the kids are convinced that they are ladling out the tastier part of the soup just because they are ladling it! I am going to give it a year or so and make this salad again. Because I am convinced they would have liked it if they had not gone into dinner expecting to dislike it. John and I loved it. And in the meantime, I will also try to keep you apprised of how my little experiment goes.
As far as this particular dish, I found its beginning in Meatless: More Than 200 of the Very Best Vegetarian Recipes from The Kitchens of Martha Stewart Living. My changes were mostly about health (the farro for added fiber), convenience (I don’t tend to keep scallions on hand) and whim (adding the cumin the second time, which was very tasty). I love the idea of a carrot pistachio pesto–it has oodles of flavor! It was the perfect dish for our potluck, as I was able to whip it up in about 45 minutes (some of that waiting time).
- 1/2 cup bulgur
- 3/4 cup boiling water
- 1/2 cup farro (optional, you could use all bulgur, in which case double it and double the water)
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped (optional, use if using farro)
- 3 cups cooked chickpeas (I used 2 cans, rinsed)
- chopped scallions optional (I left out both times because I did not have)
- 1/2 cup mint leaves, roughly chopped (or you can use cilantro)
- 1/2 cup currants
- 1 cup chopped carrots (about 2 large)
- 1/4 cup shelled and toasted pistachios
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 t cumin (optional, I only used the second time)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- lemon wedges (or juice of one lemon if you are taking to a potluck)
- salt and pepper to taste
The second time I made this dish I used all bulgur and therefore used no onions, so that part is up to you. But if you are using farro, cook it according to the directions, but with chopped onions. Drain and set aside.
Place the bulgur in a large, heat-proof bowl. Pour the boiling water over and place a heavy dish on it. Leave for 30 minutes.
Make the pesto while the bulgur is cooking.
You can deal with the garlic one of 3 ways: if raw does not bother your stomach, just add the garlic to the processor. it bothers my stomach, so the first time I toasted the garlic with the pistachios:
The second time I slowly roasted the garlic, minced, in the extra virgin olive oil I was using and added it to the pesto with the oil. Of the 2 methods, I probably liked the second the best. But both work, so use whatever method you prefer.
Place the carrots and pistachios (and garlic if you are using raw or if you toasted it with the pistachios) in your food processor. Pulse until roughly chopped. Add the cumin if using. Pour the olive oil into the food processor while it is running (including the garlic if you roasted it in the oil). Puree until it is a paste.
When the bulgur and farro have finished cooking, toss them together (including the onions if using farro). Add the chickpeas and currants. Mix in the carrot pistachio pesto along with a pinch of salt and black pepper. Mix in the mint leaves (and cilantro if using).
Taste for more salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice if your guests will not have access to lemon wedges.
I’m going to have to remember that quote and these tactics for when I have kids, because I do not plan on making two separate meals for us NOR do I plan on making chicken fingers. Ever. This meal sounds amazing. Carrot pistachio pesto? Yes. I’m so in.
this sounds very smart. it’s a good thing you make stew type dishes. what will you do when the meat etc. are separate? I am proud of the way you have raised your kids to be open minded eaters. you must remember all the problems i had. there was one week in 1986 when all of you liked fried chicken, and then you 4 realized your mistake, and at least one of you started disliking it. love, mom
Be laid back about which parts of the meal they choose to eat. I so rarely serve that kind of food that I am not too worried about it–when I do serve it, it tends to be things we all like!
I love that your Mom comments on your blog! So sweet! I love salads like this! I could eat this very same one for every meal and not grow tired of it! The carrot pesto sounds insanely good and it’s so unique.
My husband and in laws do not read my blog. But my mom and dad pretty much do not miss a post and my siblings eventually catch most of them! You’re right, it is sweet! 😀
Betty Ann @Mango_Queen says
I love chickpeas and I will enjoy this salad as an entree all by myself. But when my sons come home, I’m sure they’ll like this one as a side to other dishes, as well. Thanks for the recipe and tips, Laura!
Really interesting method! I’ll have to keep that in mind once my little one is old enough to dish out his own food. And for the record, “weird” food is usually the best kind of food!! Kudos for serving them such a wide array of interesting foods 🙂
Lea Ann (Cooking On The Ranch) says
Laura, I came over after replying to our conversation about Social Media Calendars on G+ I was going to send you the template I have but don’t see contact information for you. Can you send me an email and I’ll forward you the information? Thanks and great to find your blog.
Thanks for also letting me know that is not easy to find. I swear I have it somewhere, but I will get it added more prominently. Anyway, thanks, and it is: thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com.