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A grain you may not know: Bulgur

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Bulgur isn't that hippie-ish

When you read the word "bulgur," what did you think? Did you cringe a little? One friend said to me when I mentioned it, with just a little disdain, "That sounds (pause) healthy." It is, but it is also delicious and quick to cook.

Bulgur

Bulgur is simply just another form of wheat

I probably cringed the first time I was offered bulgur. Bulgur is often seen as exotic, even hippie-ish - but it's just a different way to process the wheat berry. Unlike cracked wheat, bulgur is the cleaned, parboiled and dried berries of the wheat stalk. So it's just wheat, and a grain you actually already know! For example, you know that tabbouleh that you like so much at the middle eastern deli? That's just a bulgur salad.

Bulgur is versatile and quick to cook

Bulgur is extremely nutrious, and a fun way to shake up your grain side dishes or even breakfast. It can be cooked like rice - or like pasta. Combine 2 to 2-1/2 cups liquid to 1 cup bulgur to cook like rice and use like rice. Or boil and drain it like pasta for use in grain based salads. It can also be cooked much like oatmeal with some milk, cinnamon and honey.

What I like about bulgur is the body of it. It has a real bite and holds flavors well. It feels substantial. In winter, it makes me feel like I am getting great fuel to power my body through the cold days.

Why not give bulgur a try? It's more that just "healthy" - it's delicious. Here are some bulgur recipes to prove it.

Bulgur recipes


Bulgur Pilaf with Sour Cream

Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 large celery rib, chopped
1 large parsnip, chopped
2-1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup bulgur
Salt and pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped

Directions:
1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, celery and parsnip. Saute another 2 minutes. Cover, lower the heat a bit, and cook until the veggies are tender, about 10 minutes.

2. Add the stock, increase the heat and bring to a boil. Add the bulgur, reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook until the bulgur is tender, about 20 minutes or so. Season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, stir in the sour cream and dill.

Bulgur, Chicken and Tomato Salad

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
1 cup bulgur
2 medium tomatoes, peeded, seeded and chopped
2 cup cooked chicken breast
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Directions:
Cook the bulgur in a large pot of water until tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Drain, and allow to cool. In a large bowl, combine the cooled bulgur, tomatoes, chicken, basil, mint and garlic. In a smaller bowl, combine the olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Toss the vinaigrette with the bulgur, tomato and chicken mixture and serve immediately.

Bulgur Bread with Buttermilk

Makes 2 loaves

As with many grains, bulgur contributes much to breads. This is a substantial, hearty whole-wheat loaf.

Ingredients:
1/4 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
3 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons of tomato paste
1/2 cup finely ground bulgur
1-1/2 cups warm buttermilk
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
Cornmeal (optional)

Directions:
1. Put the warm water in a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over it and allow the yeast to soften for about 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk in the honey and the tomato paste until smooth. Stir in the bulgur and buttermilk. Set aside for 20 minutes.

2. Stir the butter and salt into the bulgur mixture. Add the whole wheat flour and 1-1/2 cups of the bread flour and bring together into a stiff dough. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 15 minutes to let the texture really develop, adding more flour if necessary. The dough should be smooth and not sticky.

3. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled, about 1-1/2 hours. Punch down the dough, turn out onto a floured board, and divide in half. Gently form each half into a loaf shape.

4. Sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal or line it with parchment paper and place the loaves on the sheet. Cover loosely with a towel and let rise again, about 45 minutes. Halfway through the second rise, heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

5. With the tip of a sharp knife, slash the tops of the loaves two or three times. Bake about 25 minutes, until the loaves are crisp and sound hollow when tapped lightly with your fingers.

Even more delicious nutritious bulgur recipes

Mediterranean Grain Salad
Hot Cereal Plus
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