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Turnip the Beet! Nutrition and Wellness

Timely news, information, and innovative ideas to promote health and influence change.

Bulgur Wheat: A Quick-Cooking, (and delicious!) Whole Grain


 

October brings in the sweet, crisp air of fall that travels through the changing tree tops and into open windows where it mingles with even sweeter smells simmering on the stove. October is also the month of final abundance and a time to gather the last of the harvest before winter's chill sets in. The flavors enjoyed in fall are as hardy as the season.

Root vegetables and wheat are two such crops that are hardy and can withstand lengthy storage times making them ideal for winter cooking. There are many varieties of wheat but I wanted to specifically showcase bulgur wheat for its "quick cooking" abilities and whole grain status.

Bulgur is not a variety of wheat but rather a wheat product. It has been pre-cooked, dried and broken into pieces for easy cooking at a later date. For this reason, it is great for those who are new to whole grain cooking.

(Two kinds of bulgur are pictured here: red wheat bulgur on the left and white wheat bulgur on the right.)

Bulgur is very common in middle-eastern cuisine which is why it is known as "Middle Eastern pasta". It is part of a popular ethnic food, tabbouleh (ta·bouli), in Western cultures. Fun fact: It is thought to have been the first "instant breakfast" because it's easily reconstituted by simply soaking in hot water.

How to enjoy bulgur wheat

  • In pitas and wraps
  • As a side dish
  • In pilafs
  • As the base of a salad such as tabbouleh (best-known traditional use)

Making tabbouleh

There are many variations of this dish depending on the region where you live and seasonal availability. Some have chocolate and fruit such as pomegranate seeds and grapefruit while others incorporate more savory flavors unique to the country of origin.

The following recipe follows the traditional style of Syrian-Lebanese cuisine which is flavored by fresh herbs, onion and lemon. Simple and always satisfying!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1 cup water or broth
  • 1/2 cup scallions- chopped
  • 1 small cucumber- finely chopped
  • 1 tomato- finely chopped
  • 1-2 cups herbs- parsley, cilantro, and/or mint- minced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic- minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

First rinse the bulgur and set aside. Bring the water or broth to a boil and pour over bulgur, let bulgur sit for 1/2 an hour at room temperature. The bulgur should be softened by this point. If excess water remains, drain and squeeze with hands. Add the vegetables and herbs to the bulgur in a large bowl. Use more or less of each herb and vegetable depending on your taste preference. Pour oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt/pepper in the bowl and let stand for at least 1/2 an hour before serving. Mix well and serve as a side dish with your favorite meal or as an appetizer with pita bread. Tabbouleh will stay fresh in the refrigerator for a few days.

 

 

Sources:

Whole Grains Council

Offaim, H. Tabbouleh by night, tabbouleh by day: Recipes that honor the ancient harvest. www.haaretz.com. Oct. 17, 2014.

Bulgur photo courtesy of: Whole Grains Council

Tabbouleh photo courtesy of: "Flickr - cyclonebill - Tabbouleh"



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