Friday, December 21, 2007

Toasted Bulgur Wheat



Bulgur is prepared by parboiling, drying and grinding whole wheat berries. This nutty grain is my go-to recipe for potlucks or dinner parties. Bulgur, in my mind, is a wonder-grain for vegetarians. It's not packed in amino acids like Quinoa, but what it lacks in protein, it makes up for in flavor. Once toasted with oil in a pan, the wheat grains release a wonderful nutty flavor that complements roasted vegetables quite well. The fact that most people haven't had bulgur makes this dish a pleasant surprise.

As an added bonus? Leftover bulgur tastes even better the next day.

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The recipe I have listed here is quite time consuming. I don't always invest an entire afternoon to prepare bulgur wheat; in fact, for most dinners, I whip something together in less than 30 minutes by skipping the roasted vegetables (I stir in a little chopped onion or parsley instead).  Toasted bulgur on its own is amazing. You can also substitute whatever is in your pantry - I have made this with cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, onion, garlic, tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms of all sorts, and squash. If you wish, you could stir in chopped nuts, feta, parsley or roasted garlic at the end. It will taste like winter comfort food no matter what, I promise.

To shorten this recipe, you can chop, toss and roast all of the vegetables together at once. Doing them in batches didn't bother me since I was cleaning while I cooked, but if you're in a rush, just roast everything on several pans all at once. Keep an eye on things to make sure the vegetables don't burn. When you substitute other vegetables, note that denser vegetables (eg, carrot) will take more time and thus need to be chopped smaller than watery vegetables (eg, zucchini).


Roasted Vegetables with Toasted Bulgur Wheat

Serves: 10-12


Lots of olive oil

Salt and Pepper


1 head cauliflower

1 bunch asparagus

1 small eggplant

1 medium zucchini

1 onion

4 medium portobella mushrooms


2 cups bulgur wheat, medium-course grind

4 cups water or stock*

1 tsp salt, 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 1/2 tsp ground sage


Preheat the oven to 350.  Prepare and roast the vegetables in four batches. While roasting one set, prepare the next set of ingredients, tossing each with plenty of olive oil, salt and pepper before its time in the oven.  While roasting vegetables, be sure to stir often so that they do not burn. (1) Peel any green leaves off of the cauliflower and slice into 3/4" sheets. Remove tough part of main stem, if there's any of it left, and then chop or pull apart cauliflower florets until everything is bite sized. Toss with liberal amount of olive oil and salt and pepper, pour into a large baking dish or cookie pans and roast until tender and browned on the edges (~45 minutes, depending). (2) Hold a test piece of asparagus by each end and bend until it snaps. Using the length of this stalk as a guide, trim the rest of the asparagus to the right length. Roast for ~15 minutes. (3) Peel and cube (1/2") the eggplant; salt excessively and leave in a colander for 20 minutes, then rinse off the salt and squeeze out all the water you can.  Chop or slice the zucchini into 1/2" thick pieces. Dive the onion. Roast all of these together for ~25 minutes. (4) Slice the portobellas to 1/4" thickness. Roast for ~10 minutes. When you're done, reserve any pan drippings and add to the bulgur.


At some point in this process, prepare the bulgur. It can sit without getting mushy. Add 4 tbsp olive oil to a large, heavy bottom pan. Add bulgur and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until the bulgur is toasted to a deep honey-brown color. Don't burn it, but get close! Add all of the vegetable stock and spices at once, cover, and simmer over medium-low for 20-30 minutes. Check often, as the cooking time will depend on what kind of bulgur you use. When done, the bulgur should taste nutty; it will be mostly tender with some al dente pieces, but it should not "stick to your molars", as my husband puts it. If the bulgur starts getting dry, just stir in more stock 1/2 cup at a time. Salt and pepper to taste.


Spoon bulgur into a large casserole dish and cover decoratively with vegetables. Keep warm in oven until ready to serve or cool for at least an hour before placing in the fridge. This casserole will taste even better if it sits overnight.

* You can use water, chicken stock or vegetable stock for this. I use homemade vegetable stock (recipe below). If you don't want to bother with a homemade stock, look for a stock that is mostly clear (not a "broth" of pureed vegetables), and look for something with a slightly bitter, rich flavor to it. After much trial and error, I found that I prefer this stock, whose first ingredient is onion. Depending on where I shop in a particular week, I use this one too. My pet-peeve is carrot and tomato based stocks or broth purees, which are far too sweet for most vegetable dishes.  I honestly think a good stock (whichever one you use) makes a world of difference.



Vegetable Stock

This takes somewhere around 1 lb of vegetable scraps: onion skin peelings, the ends of carrots, mushroom stems, garlic ends, tomato bits, parsley, etc. I even throw in kale stems or spinach leaves if I have it. Avoid sulpherous vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage or broccoli. If you don't have any mushroom stems, sprinkle in a few dry mushrooms to compensate - it really makes a difference. If the vegetable scraps look low, I supplement with a chopped carrot / onion / celery, etc. Taste the broth after about an hour and decide if it seems too watery.


Add vegetable scraps to a large pot with 1 bay leaf, a palm-full of peppercorns, and 1 1/2 tbsp salt. Add water to cover vegetables completely (8-10 cups), cover, and simmer on high heat for 3 hours.  Cool for 1 hour or, if you live in the east like us, on a clean shelf in the pantry/mud-room /garage below 40 degrees overnight!


Line a colander with paper towels or cheese cloth and set over another pot or large mixing bowl. Pour stock into colander and drain, squeezing any extra broth from the vegetables as you go. Pour into a clean container and use within several days.




Fiber said...

I'm always looking for new ways to use bulgur, so this recipe looks fantastic. Can't wait to give it a try!!

Anonymous said...

I made this for dinner tonight; it was a huge hit with the whole family! Yum!

Anonymous said...

Made a variant on this tonight. Toasting the bulgur was awesome!