Bulghur is not just for tabbouleh, my friends. Quinoa is The Grain of the Moment, and there has been such a trend lately of cooking low-carb and/or gluten-free that bulghur has fallen by the wayside, so to speak. I shall work to revive it! I love the flavor and texture and seem to gravitate toward it, especially during the warm summer months. Perhaps tabbouleh is to blame for that. In addition to cucumber, tomato & parsley, bulghur is wonderful with a variety of vegetables and herbs.
Bulghur (or bulgar or bulgur) is wheat kernels that have been boiled, dried and crushed; it is considered to be a whole grain and is high in fiber. It is not the same as cracked wheat, which is raw. Because bulghur has essentially been pre-cooked, it cooks quickly, in a time frame similar to that of jasmine rice, orzo or French lentils. This is a huge positive for me, since I have been trying to use more whole grains and legumes from the bulk aisle at the grocery store, moving away from canned goods– but I am terrible at remembering to pre-soak. Terrible. So, bulghur is my friend when I need a quick dinner and don’t want pasta or rice.
This warm salad was a last-minute dinner I put together earlier this week. I was supposed to run down and get some fish to grill, but it rained and I was baking and doing laundry and it just didn’t happen. When I looked at the clock, it was already 6:15 and I didn’t even have the stove on. I made this in time for dinner at 6:45 and it was delicious. In addition to using bulghur in a new way, I also used up some vegetables that needed using, so it’s a great clean-out-the-crisper dish. I served it warm for dinner but enjoyed leftovers cold for lunch the next day and thought it was just as tasty. The recipe serves four as a main entree but would be a great side dish with grilled vegetables, fish, chicken or lamb, especially. The cheese I used, myzritha, is a favorite I was lucky to have on hand– it’s a very dense, dry, salty cheese that crumbles like queso fresco but tastes closer to feta. If you don’t have access to it, queso fresco, feta or cotija can be substituted.
I’m not sure the world is ready for the Summer of Bulghur, but I might be; this is certainly a great starting point to give it a try, if you haven’t before, or try something other than tabbouleh, if that’s been your previous go-to dish. I’m always on the hunt for new preparations, so please feel free to share your favorite bulghur recipes. Summer of Bulghur, indeed.
Warm Bulghur Salad with Spring Vegetables
- 2 1/4 c. water
- pinch of salt
- 1 c. bulghur
- 2 T. olive oil
- 1 T. butter
- 3 slender leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced* (about 2 c.)
- 1 c. fresh spinach leaves, washed
- 1 c. asparagus, cut into 1/2″ pieces
- 1 c. chicken or veggie stock, preferably homemade
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 T. red wine vinegar
- salt & pepper to taste
- chiffonade of 4-5 fresh mint leaves, about 2 T.
- 1 oz. myzritha cheese, crumbled
To prepare the bulghur, bring the water to a boil with a pinch of salt and add the bulghur. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover partially. Cook for about 20 mins.; fluff with a fork and set aside.
While the bulghur cooks, prepare the vegetables. In a saute pan, heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 7 mins., until they begin to soften. Add the spinach and mix; the hot leeks will help to wilt and cook the spinach leaves. After 2-3 mins., add the asparagus and the stock to the pan; the stock will get any good browned bits off the bottom of the pan and will steam the asparagus. (I prefer my asparagus very crunchy; if you want it softer, add it before the spinach and cook for a minute or so before continuing with the recipe.) Add the red pepper, if using, vinegar, salt and pepper to the pan and stir, cooking for another minute or two. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cooked bulghur, mint and cheese. Serve immediately or, if your plan is to serve the salad cold, cool it slightly before transferring to a tightly-covered bowl and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. The salad can be made a day or two before eating.