The no-Tanglewood salad. Photo: Bob Luhmann

The no-Tanglewood salad

I am here to remind you if you can’t listen to the Boston Symphony Orchestra live while picnicking on the lawn at Tanglewood, you can still picnic on a lawn somewhere and perhaps even listen to a BSO concert.

Wait a minute!

What?!

No Tanglewood?!

I knew this was coming, but as we approach the summer, it’s becoming very real. There’ve been a lot of things we’ve had to deal with due to the world turning upside-down and our present abusive relationship with the coronavirus pandemic, but for so many of us either living in or being regular visitors to the Berkshires, this is a particularly difficult turn of events to deal with. Sadly, It doesn’t appear we’re going to get out of this abusive coronavirus relationship or have the world right itself anytime soon, either.

Yes, I realize there’s much, much worse happening to hundreds of thousands of people in the world than not having a Tanglewood season. Yes, I’m truly very grateful for what I do have, including, most of all, my health and the health of those I love. I know New England Puritan sensibilities demand I shouldn’t be whining, but for those of us whose dream of the next Tanglewood season is something that gets us through the rough patches of a Berkshire winter and spring, it’s a solid punch to the gut.

On top of dealing with pandemic isolation and all the unrest we’re experiencing, the weather gods really kicked us while we were down this spring, culminating with a snowstorm on May 11. All in all, recent circumstances have thrown roadblocks up to so many pleasures, possibly making it a Puritan’s dream. As for me with my relationship to pleasure, I’m sure I would have been a prime candidate for multiple visits to the stocks in 17th-century New England.

However, happy days are here again! Summer’s on its way and the Berkshire Hills have awakened to become impossibly green once again. With the warmer weather, we’re being told we can begin carefully socializing outside in small groups. However, I’m not here to tell you the rules to follow while summer socializing, nor am I the least bit qualified to do so. That’s up to your favorite epidemiologist, now that we all have a favorite and have become familiar with what the heck an epidemiologist is and does. However, I am here to remind you if you can’t listen to the Boston Symphony Orchestra live while picnicking on the lawn at Tanglewood, you can still picnic on a lawn somewhere and perhaps even listen to a BSO concert.

In fact, we may have just the lawn for you. According to this article, the Tanglewood grounds will be open with advance registration in a limited capacity for visitors from July 5 through Aug. 23, with social distancing and CDC-recommended health protocols in place. Registration begins at www.tanglewood.org beginning Monday, June 15. In addition, the BSO will offer a variety of free and paid online audio and video streams available at www.tanglewood.org beginning Wednesday, July 1. Think of the possibilities of virtual BSO concerts on a smart device combined with a picnic!

So, as the old saying goes, “When life hands you lemons, make a salad with lemon dressing,” or something like that. I’d like to share a nice lemony salad, in this case utilizing locally seasonal asparagus using a mashup of my tabouli salad recipe as a base to add to your summer salad repertoire. I especially love recipes that fit within the Mediterranean diet in the summer and this one certainly fits the bill. Starting with a basic tabouli recipe allows for endless bright-tasting summer salad possibilities by adding ingredients from poached chicken, beans or steamed shrimp to watermelon and stone fruits to seasonal vegetables of all sorts.

Beyond tabouli

No. 1 very fine bulgur does not require cooking if left to soften in the tossed salad. It can be bought online if unavailable where you typically shop, but cooked couscous or any cooked grain can be substituted.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (about two bunches) flat-leaf parsley, thick stems removed and finely chopped
  • 4 scallions, cut on the bias
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes (1 pint), cut in half
  • 1 15.5-ounce can of garbanzos, drained and rinsed
  • 4 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups asparagus, cut on the bias into bite-sized pieces and steamed
  • ½ cup mint, thick stems removed and finely chopped
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon sumac (if available)
  • ½ cup No. 1 very fine bulgur
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, some salt and pepper, sumac and allspice. Add bulgur, asparagus and garbanzos to the oil and lemon mixture and toss. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss again. Refrigerate for at least half an hour to allow the bulgur to soften, toss again, adjust salt and pepper, and enjoy your picnic!