When I go out to eat, I generally seek food that I wouldn’t cook myself, either due to lack of expertise, hard-to-find ingredients, or knowledge that I would balk at the idea of actually putting the right amount of butter into that cinnamon roll I had for brunch this Sunday… But sometimes, a restaurant dish so fresh and delicious graces my palate that I am flooded with the desire to recreate it. This happened a few weeks ago in New York City. I was there with my family celebrating the wedding of a dear family friend. On Sunday night, after the wedding festivities had come to a close and before I boarded the plane to head back west, my parents and I dined at Kefi, a Greek restaurant in the Upper West Side that we had been to on prior visits, and that never disappointed. On their specials menu that night was the Cypriot Salad: a melange of bulgur wheat, lentils, dried apricots, dates, pistachios, red onion, red pepper, pistachios, and smoked almonds. Although I’m usually guilty of indecisiveness when it comes to ordering, I knew in a heartbeat that this salad had to be a part of our meal.
When it arrived at our table, a generous portion piled high in the center of a plate, I dug in and swooned. This salad was something special. Hearty yet light, fruity yet smoky, rustic yet elegant. I loved it so much that my parents, recognizing the gusto with which I was enjoying it, ordered a second Cypriot Salad to-go for me to take back to Chicago. Quite the parting gift!
Back in Chicago, I donned my finest food detective hat and dissected apart this salad, meticulously deciphering what herb each of the little green flecks represented and writing out a list of suspected ingredients. This weekend I finally came around to bringing it to life. In spite of my sleuth work, I ended up using the exact ingredient makeup from Kefi as a springboard, combining it with some always-welcome inspiration from Ottolenghi’s green couscous recipe, and adding a bit of my own flair to create a twist on the Cypriot Salad that I am eager to share.
Don’t be deterred by the long ingredient list! I promise you, it’s worth it. Each grain, fruit, nut, and spice adds a unique layer of flavor and texture that make this salad so complex and delicious. Perhaps the best part of all is that bringing this to life in my kitchen afforded me the opportunity to relive that wonderful trip and to relish, cherish, and recreate the beautiful moments spent with family, friends, and good food.
A Twist on Kefi’s Cypriot Salad (with inspiration from Ottolenghi)
1 cup lentils
2 1/2 cups water
Bulgur and Dried Fruit: 
3/4 cup bulgur wheat

1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/3 cup pitted dates, chopped
2 cups nearly boiling water
Caramelized Shallots: 
1 tbsp olive oil
3 large shallots, sliced
1 jalapeno, finely diced
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Remaining ingredients:
3-4 oz arugula
1 lemon, zest and juice
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup mint, chopped
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
2 tbsp tarragon, chopped
2 tbsp dill, chopped
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
drizzle of honey
salt and pepper to taste
Bring lentils and 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil and cook, covered, for 40 minutes, until lentils are tender but not mushy. Remove from heat when done.
While lentils are cooking, place bulgur wheat, dates, and apricots into a glass bowl. Heat 2 cups of water until almost boiling (on stove or in microwave). Pour hot water over the bulgur and fruit and cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap.  Allow to absorb the water for 20-30 minutes, until bulgur wheat is tender and most of the water is absorbed. Drain any excess water.
As bulgur soaks, prepare the caramelized shallots and jalapeno. Heat 1 tsbp olive oil in a small saute pan over medium heat. Saute shallots in oil for 7-10 minutes, until caramelized and beginning to brown. Add jalapeno, sugar, and smoked paprika, and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.

To assemble, place arugula and lemon zest in a large bowl. Pour warm lentils, bulgur and dried fruit mixture, shallot and jalapeno mixture, and remaining ingredients over the arugula. Toss until well combined. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed (I ended up adding in a dash more of smoked paprika and red wine vinegar, but tweak as you wish!)

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