Salmon Bulgur Salad with Herby Vinaigrette
Somewhere along life feeling happy shifted from effortless to contrived. It could be rose-colored nostalgia, but I remember myself not too long ago wearing a bright smile and cheerful attitude most of the time. I can’t pinpoint when it happened that my smile started feeling strained. Mostly because nothing really ever happened. The pressures of motherhood, wifehood, daughterhood, workhood somehow all collide inconveniently and I just can’t handle stress with the alacrity some possess. Ironically, one of my biggest sources of joy is also my biggest source of frustration. Hint: mothering my children. I feel racked between self-doubt and self-actualization. That these little people who are growing up too fast are the epitome of everything right and loving in the world, and yet have the power to unearth dark, musty shameful crevices within me I never knew existed. The paradox surprises me every time I go from tears to unruly laughter because of them. Thankfully, the latter happens often enough.
And then there’s life stuff. I had vivid daydreams of how my life would unfold and things like struggle and sacrifice weren’t part of the picture. I’d be surrounded by beauty and calm and everything would just fall into place neatly. My brain still convinces me of this childhood naivete and somehow I fall for it enough to wish away my challenges. Call it a lack of maturity but I’d rather stomp my feet and sob away some of the issues that come up, normally, in life. Most of the time I’m not in control anyway and that just aggravates things yet makes them calming somehow.
All that to say that in my thirty second year of life I’ve come to realize, in a deeper sense, that it takes choice and effort to be happy. And though it’s very en vogue to talk gratitude and blessings, I believe that when I’m mindful of mine, the indignation and entitlement that rob me of serenity get scrubbed off just a little more.
There’s also little habits that border on foolish that I should probably avoid more to preserve the little victories I look for in my day. Namely, scrolling instagram mindlessly and in a span of 8 minutes feeling like I should be vacationing in the Maldives, bedecked in designer clothing and showered in diamonds no less. Or maybe frolicking on some hilltop with my little ones perfectly attired while being photographed by world-renowned photographers, or even more realistically, make 3 types of galettes and then go restaurant hopping in three different cities. This gets better, I should fly across the globe to meet my adoring fans and sign copies of my fourth cookbook in a floral dress and cocktail in hand. Yes, social media is meant to tickle our fantasies and poke at our reality but with the wrong perspective it blinds our values.
I would love to travel the world more than anything but I chose to be a present, attentive mother with all the mundane everyday things that it entails. So I just double click that home screen and look for the magical pockets of joy in my messy, chaotic simple life. They’re not so hard to find. I get a jolt of bliss when my seven year old boy reaches to hold my hand as I walk him up to the bus stop after a crazy morning where I should have been more patient and pleasant with him. I revel in the way my baby’s burly belly draws into mine while he’s in a carefree slumber. Or the incessant laughter that bursts from all the kids six minutes post-fight for the toy. There’s also that thoughtful email or message from a reader. The generous act from a friend. The way my husband indulges me in the expensive gelato because that’s the kind of gal I am.
All that to say that happiness, for me, lives in the small, maybe overlooked, details of life. And even though some days I have to squint really hard to find them, they’re there. I now know I need to look harder so that the smile on my face is a little bit more effortless.
Really I’m here to talk about this Salmon Bulgur Salad but I appreciate that you let me indulge a bit in my soliloquy. I find summer holds all sorts of fun in way of childhood memories but I’ve come to dislike the incessant, unrelentless heat. So for meals, I turn to something simple and light. Roasted salmon is something that can stay well in the fridge for a few days, making it a good protein for multiple meals. And having a batch of bulgur ready can also be of multi-purpose use. You’ll notice I cook it in 1 1/2 cup of water instead of the standard 2 cups. It’s because I like my grains a little firmer and it gives then more space to absorb the liquid from the dressing. The dressing here is perky, acidic and refreshing. Maybe double it. And I love the hint of sweetness from the nectarine and of course the refreshing bite the cucumber lends. There is a lot of pleasure and joy in food, of course, I hope you find it in this salad.
Salmon Bulgur Salad with Herby Vinaigrette
For the salmon,
1lb salmon, washed and cubed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
For the bulgur,
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup bulgur, rinsed
½ teaspoon sea salt
1.5 cups boiling water
For the salad,
3-4 green onions, sliced
½ avocado, diced
1-2 nectarine, diced
1-2 cucumber, diced
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
For the dressing,
2 cloves garlic
2 green onions
½ bunch cilantro
5-8 mint leaves (optional)
Juice and zest from 1 lemon
4-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 400F. Place salmon on a baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Pour olive oil and rub well into the flesh. Roast for 10-12 minutes or until opaque and fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove from oven and allow to cool until comfortable to the touch.
In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium high. Add the bulgur and stir to coat in oil. Season with salt and pour boiling water. Stir well and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer until cooked through, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Allow to cool until ready to use.
In a small blender, process the garlic, green onions, cilantro, mint lemon juice and zest as well as olive oil. Process until a paste forms. If too thick, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until you reach the consistency that you like. I skipped the water, preferring a thicker dressing.
In a salad bowl, combine the bulgur, green onions, avocado, nectarine, cucumber and cilantro. Top with flakes of salmon. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and lightly toss to combine.