Beautiful Bulgur
by Colette Christian

Conscious Choice, February 1999

Bulgur is one of my favorite grains to cook with. In my current position, I am
cooking vegetarian meals for a residential Americorps camp in a beautiful state
forest in the Berkshire foothills. I use bulgur in salads, pilafs, and bread. I couldn't
make my vegetarian chili without it. It is a staple at work. I use 10-15 pounds a month.

Bulgur is wheat berries that have been steamed, dried and cracked. It has a nutty
flavor and a fluffy consistency. Bulgur cooks quickly with little or no attention.
I don't even stir it.

I buy organic bulgur from our local coop. When I lived in Chicago, I found it at
Whole Foods in the bulk aisle. Many health food stores also stock it.

Store bulgur and all grains in the refrigerator. I'm totally paranoid about whole grains
going rancid. I store all my whole grains, nuts, and seeds in the refrigerator or freezer
in air-tight containers. Whole and cracked grains still contain the oil-rich germ which
makes them susceptible to rancidity and insects, especially in a warm kitchen. This
oil-rich germ is what makes grains like bulgur so nutritious. It is full of B vitamins,
fiber, and iron.

In the kitchen, there are a few things you need to know about working with bulgur.
These tips will be helpful when you prepare any grains.

When grains are cooked or soaked, they absorb water and swell. Bulgur almost
triples its original volume. The dry measurement never looks like enough, but resist
that temptation to throw in a few more handfuls. You may find yourself with enough
tabbouleh to feed an army.

You need two cups of liquid for every cup of bulgur. Water, vegetable stock, or juice
may be used. The more flavorful the liquid, the more flavor the grains will have. Bring
the cooking liquid to a boil before adding the grain. Add salt after the grain is cooked
or swelled. Salt slows down the swelling process. Then leave it alone awhile. Too
much stirring can make grains tough. Tasting is the best way to determine if the bulgur
is cooked. It should be chewy, but not tough or hard.

When I prepare bulgur for salads or breads, I place the grains in a bowl and cover
them with boiling water, then I cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit for 20 minutes.
This is an old restaurant trick. I find it more effective than the cold soaking method
some cookbooks advise for bulgur. It quickens the cooking process and ensures a
perfectly cooked grain. No leftovers!

Bulgur also may be cooked by the "pilaf" method. Sauté the grain with minced
onion in oil and then add in twice the amount of water or stock. Cook it covered
over low heat until the liquid is absorbed and the grain is tender. This takes about
20 minutes.

Try adding grains like bulgur to your diet. They are easy to cook and so nutritious!
Happy cooking!

Tabbouleh or Tabbouli
The classic bulgur recipe that I make all the time. This version is very tasty.
(Serves 4-6)

1 cup bulgur
2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt and several grinds of fresh ground black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil, preferably extra virgin
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 small cucumber, seeded and chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)
4 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
1/2 cup sliced almonds

1.) Place bulgur in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Cover with plastic wrap and
allow to sit undisturbed for 20 minutes. Uncover and allow to cool.

2.) In a large bowl, mix lemon juice, salt and pepper. Whisk in olive oil gradually.
Add bulgur, parsley, basil, mint, tomato, cucumber, red pepper, scallions and almonds.
Combine well. Taste and adjust seasonings. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Vegetarian Chili
My favorite, which is adapted from The Frog Commissary Cookbook.
(Serves 6-8 generously)

1/4 cup olive oil, preferably extra virgin
2 medium onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 green peppers, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped (wear gloves when working with chilies)
10 ounces (1 1/2 cups) mushrooms, chopped
1 Tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
several grinds of fresh ground black pepper
1 15 oz can chopped tomatoes
3/4 cup bulgur
1 20 oz can red kidney beans (or homemade)
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (or soy sauce)
1/2 cup red wine (or apple juice, grape juice or veggie broth)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

1.) Heat oil in a large pan. Add onions, garlic, peppers, carrots, jalapeno, mushrooms,
spices, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring for 3-4 minutes. Add remaining ingredients.
Bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Chili can be thinned
with water. Adjust seasonings. Can easily be made a day in advance.
This also freezes well.

Bulgur and Lentil Pilaf
(Serves 4)

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 cups bulgur
3 cups water or vegetable stock
1/2 cup cooked green or brown lentils
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

1.) In a medium pan, heat oil and saute onions and garlic for a few minutes.
Add dried herbs and bay leaf, stir well. Cover and cook until onions are translucent.

2.) Add bulgur and stir until bulgur heats up. Add stock or water. Cover, reduce heat,
and let bulgur cook for 15 minutes. Add lentils and season with salt and pepper.
Heat through and serve.