One of the exciting things about living in a new place are all the new and different ingredients to sample, eat, delight in, purchase, cook with, and integrate into your kitchen repertoire. Thanks to my dear friend Michelle and her excellent dish from the stunning Feast of Strangers, I’ve become acquainted with bulgur wheat, which tastes to me like a cross between couscous and brown rice. The grains are slightly larger than the average couscous and a little rounder than rice grains and apparently have more fiber and vitamins, as well as a lower glycemic index than either of those two close cousins (at least for white rice). More importantly, they’re delicious as well as inexpensive and versatile.
I’ve taken to buying various cereals and grains in bulk for those exact reasons. Any given evening, I generally have enough fresh vegetables or canned items or refrigerated goodies to toss into a very simple bulgur pilaf or couscous. The following recipe can be adapted depending on whatever items you may have around but what makes the recipe a bit more special is Michelle’s roasted lemon trick. Tangy, zesty and slightly caramelized, the browned lemon rinds add a fantastic and unexpected kick of flavor.
The rest of the recipe is fairly nebulous, which, if you’ve read any of my other recipes, you will most likely find unsurprising. But I think that’s the best part – it’s not particular or demanding or complicated or requiring of your full undivided attention. Essentially, you roast the vegetables that need roasting, sauté the vegetables which would taste better sautéed, slice up any delicious items you might have in the fridge like marinated olives or peppers, and boil the bulgur. Combine in dish, stir, and eat. Easy peasy. But don’t worry, I’ve also spelled out directions after the jump…
Bright orange peppers and uncooked bulgur!
Roasted Lemon and Vegetable Bulgur Wheat Pilaf
What You Need:
1/2 cup bulgur wheat
any vegetables you have around – I happen to have a massive bag of onions so I used three small onions. I also had some locally grown peppers and mushrooms from my box scheme veg bag. Another night I included some roasted beets and carrots…just chuck in anything you think would taste good
fresh parsley is always good for pilaf – stick it in a jar of water and it will last much longer than in a bag
marinated green olives
spices – I used coriander, cumin, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper
What You Do:
1. Chop the onions into small chunks and slice the lemon into thin rounds. This is a good time to pull the seeds out rather than find them in your mouth while eating. I also like to save the ends of the lemon, which you can then use at the end to add some lemon juice to the pilaf.
2. Scatter the onion chunks and lemon circles into a roasting pan and pour on a good glug of olive oil. Sprinkle with a generous dusting of spices and salt and pepper, mix around for a bit, then whack it into the oven at 300 degrees or so. P.S. whack is my new favorite cooking term that I have picked up from co-Rambling Restauranteurs Michelle and Abi. Whacky whack whack.
3. Cook the bulgur. I eyeballed it the way I cook rice – put it in a saucepan and cover with about a knuckle’s worth of extra water. Start boiling and keep an eye on it to add water if necessary. Alternatively, if you were smarter/more organized than I, you could read the instructions and measure.
4. Chop your other vegetables and sauté in a pan with a bit of olive oil and mashed garlic. Slice up the olives.
5. When the bulgur is cooked through, stir and fluff it with a fork and let it sit a bit.
6. Once all the different parts are ready – the roasted bits, the pan-fried nubbins, the fluffed cooked bulgur – stir it all together in a big bowl with some torn leaves of fresh parsley. Add salt and pepper as needed or any other spices. Squeeze in the lemon ends. This would also be an excellent time to toss in some crumbled feta or grilled halloumi.
7. Eat! Yummmmm.