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April 24, 2007

Bulgur wheat (Recipe: bulgur with cheese and eggplant) {vegetarian}

Bulgur

You're looking at the photo. I know what you're thinking.

Oh, no, here comes the tabbouleh.

If you're a cook of a certain age, you discovered tabbouleh in the Sixties, when "cream" was a rock band and a "big hunk" was a candy bar.

It would have been easy enough to write about tabbouleh, the best-use-of-parsley-as-a-vegetable staple of Middle Eastern cooking, because I first added bulgur to my pantry years ago precisely so I could prepare it for a summer buffet. But then I wouldn't have time to tell you about kibbe and pilaf, and bulgur salads with fruit or chickpeas or nuts.

Bulgur is whole wheat kernels that have been steamed or boiled, dried, and crushed. Also called bulghur, or burghul (in Arabic), it has a tender, chewy texture and comes in coarse, medium and fine grinds. According to author Claudia Roden, in the days before mechanization, bulgur was made collectively; the men harvested the wheat, the women separated the wheat from the chaff. The wheat is boiled for hours in huge pots until it splits, and then it's dried in the sun, spread out on large sheets laid on rooftops or in fields. When dry, the grain goes to a stone mill.

Often, bulgur is soaked prior to cooking, but it's very forgiving. If you forget to presoak, simply pour boiling water over the bulgur and let it stand in a bowl for a few minutes while you are prepping the remaining ingredients for your recipe. One cup of dry yields three cups of cooked, no matter which way you fix it.

Bulgur with cheese and eggplant

From The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, by Claudia Roden, this Syrian recipe combines bulgur with salty cheese and smooth eggplant. If you cannot find halloumi, substitute feta or mozzarella. Serves 4-6, as a vegetarian main dish or a side dish with grilled chicken and a spinach salad.

Ingredients

1 eggplant (approx. 3/4 lb) cut into 1-inch cubes
Kosher salt
1-1/2 large onions, diced
Vegetable oil
2 cups coarse-ground bulgur, washed in cold water and drained
3-1/4 cups boiling water or chicken stock
Black pepper
7-9 oz halloumi or feta cheese, cubed

Directions

Sprinkle the eggplant generously with salt and leave in a colander for 30 minutes. Rinse, and dry with paper towels.

Fry the onions in 2 Tbsp oil until golden. Add the bulgur and stir. Pour in the boiling water or stock, season with salt and pepper, and stir well. Cover and cook on very low heat for 15 minutes, or until the water as has been absorbed and the bulgur is tender.

Fry the eggplant briefly in hot oil, turning the cubes so that they are lightly colored all over. Lift out, and drain on paper towels.

Stir 4 Tbsp oil into the bulgur. Add the cheese and eggplant, and gently fold together. Heat through with the lid on until the cheese is soft. Serve very hot.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

Comments

mmm, kibbe. my highschool girlfriend was of Lebanese descent, and her family often made kibbe and served it raw, with lemon, red onion and yogurt. There is a Middle Eastern deli not far from here that does a good baked kibbe as well, but I still have very fond memories of the fresh raw lamb mixed with bulgur.

Funny about the taboulleh observation, very Laurel's kitchen circa 70's! I really have only eaten it that way and keep telling myself it is a good thing to embrace. This recipe looks delicious- I mean fried eggplant how can you go wrong with that?

oh man do I love bulgur pilaf! and you invoked my new kitchen godess Claudia Roden. I worship her recipes and techniques. This is one I'll definitely have to try.

Scott, our favorite (now closed) Lebanese restaurant in Boston served both raw and baked kibbe. I never developed a taste for the raw. But lately I've been making a real effort to incorporate more grains like bulgur into other dishes.

Callipygia, you made me smile -- Laurel's Kitchen -- oh how well I remember that!

Ann, I am a huge fan of Claudia Roden, too. Her depth of knowledge is amazing.

I love Claudia Roden, too. She is simply amazing!

I first tasted bulgur in a family-run Lebanese restaurant here in Mel. Their taboulleh is to die for when eating with kebab, dips and Lebanese bread. I go there so often that they know exactly what I want to eat. :)

I wouldn't start any sentence about bulgur with "Oh, no." I just love it in all types of dishes (including tabbouleh). I haven't tried it yet with halloumi cheese, so I'm excited about this recipe. Thanks!

Anh, isn't it great to eat at a restaurant that knows what you like to order? We used to have a wonderful Lebanese restaurant down the street from our house in Boston, and every week we ate there at least once, and we always ordered the same thing: shish taouk (chicken on skewers), with rice pilaf and salad with cheese. They knew as soon as we walked in!

Susan, the combination of bulgur and cheese is great!

I often use bulgur in place of rice. It great to see more non-tabbouleh recipes, don't get me wrong, I like tabbouleh, but how many ways can it really be made?

Guilty as charged. However, I never liked tabbouleh! (Did like 'cream' and the candy bars though - always been more in favor of the 'bad')
Now, though, I have just re-discovered bulghar and like it a lot. I've been in search of recipes - and for eggplant as well. So this recipe is a double plus for me....thanks

I just bought a bag this weekend! Love the idea of cheese and eggplant, because I've beeen wondering if there are unique ways to prepare bulgar.

bulgur is essential indeed! it is so versitile, high in protein, high in fiber and low in calories [per cup, compared to rice] i love love love it!

Bulgur...something that is missing from my pantry! After reading your wonderful post, I have to fix that! Your recipe looks sooo good, and I've been looking for an excuse to try some halloumi cheese.

Kibbeh, deep-fried cauliflower and pickled turnips, my favorite and frequent lunch at a tiny little place in NYC's financial district. The line would snake down the sidewalk; it was worth every minute of the wait. Good memories.

Yum, Bulghar Wheat, more versatile than some people think as well. I love it!

This bulgur with cheese & eggplants sounds like a great idea. Love the combination of the ingredients Lydia. I just wish they sold bulgur wheat here!

Ahh, all the foods my Lebanese grandmother used to make! I pulled bulgur out of the pantry yesterday at lunch time, trying to find something weight watchers friendly to eat. Ended up putting together black lentils, bulgur, garlic, onion, curry spices, portabella mushrooms and spinach. Incredibly healthy but my, what an ugly dish. Delicious, though. I just finished it for breakfast.

this sounds so interesting. i've never cooked with cracked wheat. i love how you open every mysterious pantry item... i guess that is the point of your blog. but well i just love it. thanks.

This is a warm weather recipe in my book - perfect for the months ahead. But I could see making it in winter, too.

Brilynn, I thought exactly the same thing, how many ways can you use bulgur? Anyone else have favorite recipes?

Katie, glad this recipe appeals to you. I love bulgur and cheese together.

TW, please let me know if you create some wonderful recipe to use the bulgur. It always comes in large bags (or in bins), so having a few recipes in the repertoire (aside from the ever-wonderful tabbouleh) would be great.

Connie, I'm totally seduced by the health aspects and trying to eat more grains these days.

Nupur, I'm thinking that bulgur with some of the Indian spice combinations would be interesting, too....

Susan, that lunch sounds amazing.

Link, you're welcome! I'm glad I lived through the 60s and 70s, too!

Freya, if you have any recipes to share, I'm open to trying new things with bulgur!

Valentina, sometimes bulgur is sold as cracked wheat. Also lots of recipes that use bulgur also work with barley.

Christine, I envy you having a Lebanese grandmother. There is so much of that cuisine that I really love. Bulgur, black lentils and mushrooms does sound a bit...well...dark! But delicious!

Linda, thank you for visiting and rooting around in the pantry with me. Bulgur is one of those grains that marries well with many combinations of spices and ingredients. Hope you'll give it a try.

Mimi, bulgur salads are the best. And now that spring/summer is finally here......

My experiences with halloumi make me wary of any inclusion of salt in what it's accompanying. It's the saltiest cheese in the world!

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About The Perfect Pantry®

  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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