Health Week.

Heeeey y’all. It’s self-imposed health week here at Kat in the Kitch. Well, self- and roommate-imposed. Apparently I have been BAKING too much and those around me think it’s some sort of devious PLAN to make everyone FAT. I mean, it’s not like I don’t gorge on my own creations as well. I’m not sitting in the corner, rubbing my hands together whispering, “yes….that’s right….you eat that muffin. gobble it up! hahahaha. haaaaaaahahahaha. haaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahahahaha!”

Regardless! Here we are, we’re eating healthy, which doesn’t mean we’re not eating well. Quite the contrary, my friends. This here recipe was such a hit in the apartment that we made it twice! In a row! How often do you make a complicated 6-ish-step dinner twice in a row? Hardly ever, right? Well, this one was worth it. All of the roasting and the yogurt straining and multiple onion slicing and the different pans and the hell of a clean-up: all worth it.

It’s one of those dishes you take a bite of and you go “!!!interesting flavors!” but like in the positive way, not in the way you’d say it if you couldn’t think of anything else nice to say about what you were eating. This is the, wow, I never would’ve put all these flavors together but, hot damn, this is fantastic! So put down the ice cream spoon for like a hot second (if you live in San Francisco, i don’t need to sell you on THAT one, ain’t nobody eating ice cream here on account of the entire bay area being stuck in a sort of cold-fog-wind death spiral) and like…nourish yourself. Or something. I don’t know, this feels weird. Should I say something about other types of indulgences to even this out? Because if you need me to tell you I spent 3 hours the other day researching everything I could about Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights, I will.

Beautiful Bulghur and Spinach Pilaf with Labneh and Chili Roast Tomatoes
from 101 Cookbooks (which is my healthy yet interesting eating MECCA, seriously)

Heidi’s tip: consider making more of everything while you are at it. I used cherry tomatoes (all different shades of red, orange, and yellow) and roasted up a whole pan of them while I was at it. Same goes for the onions. Katrina’s comments: I like, so agree.

1 onion, finely chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves
6 ounces bulgar wheat
1 1/4 cups (10 fluid ounces) vegetable or chicken stock
salt and pepper
10 1/2 ounces spinach
leaves torn from a small bunch of mint, torn
extra-virgin olive oil

For the labneh:
1 1/8 cups (9 fluid ounces Greek yogurt)
1 fat garlic clove, crushed
pinch of salt

For the tomatoes:
12 plum tomatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoon harissa
2 teaspoons soft dark-brown sugar

For the onions:
2 onions, very finely sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon soft brown sugar
juice of 1/2 small lemon

You have to start the labneh the day or night before. Just line a sieve with a bit of cheesecloth and set it over a small bowl. Put the yogurt into the cheesecloth and refrigerate the while thing. The yogurt will lose a bit of excess moisture over the next 24 hours, leaving you with a firmer mixture, a bit like cream cheese. Help it by giving it a squeeze once or twice. Tumble the yogurt into a bowl. Add the garlic, a little salt and mash it all together. Cover and put the labneh into the refrigerator until you need it.  (Ok, so I totally cheated here. I got a pretty porous piece of white fabric, put the yogurt in, squeezed it a few times and let it sit in the fridge while i did everything else–it worked great, and i feel like you can also just get away with using regular old greek yogurt and you won’t be disappointed or anything)

Halve the tomatoes lengthwise and put them in a small roasting pan or oven proof dish. Mix together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, harissa, some salt and pepper, and pour this over the tomatoes. Turn them over, making sure they get coated, ending with them cut-side up. Sprinkle the soft brown sugar over the top and put in an oven pre-heated to 350F degrees. Cook for 40-45 minutes (hs note: less time if you use smaller cherry tomatoes), until the tomatoes are shrunken and sweet. they can either be hot or at room temperature when you add them to the pilaf, so you could do this part in advance.

For the pilaf, saute the chopped onion in half the olive oil in a fairly heavy-bottomed saucepan. When the onion is soft and translucent add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Tip the bulgar wheat (or alternately couscous – see headnote) into the pan (on top of the onions you just sauteed), pour in the stock, and season. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and let the bulgar simmer in the stock for about 15 minutes. All the stock will have been absorbed by then. Cover the pot and let the bulgar sit to fluff up for another 10 minutes.

Take the stalks off the spinach and wash the leaves well. In a covered pot, cook the leaves in just the water that clings to them after washing. they will wilt in about 4 minutes. Squeeze out the excess moisture and chop the leaves very roughly. Saute the spinach for a few minutes in the remaining olive oil and season it well with salt and pepper. Stir this into the bulgar wheat.

Quickly cook the finely sliced onions in very hot olive oil – you want them golden brown with some crispy bits. For the last minute of cooking time, add the cinnamon and brown sugar. Stir this around and, once the sugar has melted and begun to slightly caramelize, add a good squeeze of lemon juice and some salt and pepper.

Layer the different components in a broad, shallow bowl: tip in the bulgar wheat, sprinkle on half the mint, then the tomatoes, then the rest of the mint. Break the labneh into lumps and scatter them over the tomatoes. Now strew the onions on top, drizzle with a slug of extra-virgin olive oil, and serve.

Serves 4 to 8 (main / side).

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