I have been wanting to include more grains in our meals so when I heard a discussion about bulgur on NPR's Splendid Table, I was intrigued. Janet Fletcher, who writes for the San Francisco Chronicle, traveled to Turkey and delved into the history of bulgur. Her article, Ancient Grain for Modern Times, is full of interesting facts (the average person in Turkey eats a half pound of bulgur each week!) and includes several recipes.
I found her technique for cooking bulgur particularly interesting. Normally, I would just add hot water, stir, and let it sit. But she toasts the bulgur first, adds the hot water, then covers it with a pot lid wrapped in a towel. The towel absorbs the steam so that the bulgur does not come out gummy. I tried this approach and liked the results.
Bulgur is, of course, best known as the base of tabouli, a salad made with parsley, tomato and cucumber, but I wanted to try something a bit different. This combination of cumin, tomato, and mint is refreshing. When roasted, the chick peas develop a toothy texture. Their skins become crisp, and the insides develop a chewiness that I really like. Roasted this way, they are even good on their own as a snack.
If you want to prepare the dish in advance, make the bulgur and the chick peas and store them separately. Since the tomato would lose its flavor in the refrigerator and the mint bruises, chop and mix them in just before serving. If you skip roasting the chick peas, you can chop the tomato and mint while the bulgur soaks and have dinner ready in minutes.
This dish can be served either hot, cold, or at room temperature. I made it for a Memorial Day picnic, and it was very popular at the buffet table. It will definitely be a regular poolside meal for us this summer.
Oscar in particular has been loving his bulgur. When we had it for dinner the other night he said, "Mommy, do you know how much bulgur I'm going to make when I grow up? I'm going to quintuple the recipe!" And then he polished off four bowls of it.
45 minutes preparation and cooking time, plus cooling time if desired
2 15-counce cans chick peas, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cumin, divided
salt to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus a splash for the chick peas
2 cups bulgur
1 cup coarsley chopped mint
4 tomatoes, chopped
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a casserole dish, toss the chick peas with 1 teaspoon of cumin, a few shakes of salt, and a splash of olive oil. Bake the chick peas for 40 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are crisp on the outside, but still tender on the inside.
Heat 2 cups of water in a kettle or saucepan. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and add the tablespoon of cumin. Stir for a few seconds until the cumin is fragrant. Add the bulgur and a teaspoon or so of salt, and stir it for a few seconds until it is uniformly coated with the cumin and olive oil. Remove the pan from the heat, add the hot water, stir, and cover with a pot lid wrapped in a kitchen towel. After 10 minutes, remove the lid, fluff the bulgur with a fork, and set it aside.
Meanwhile, chop the tomato and mint. Just before you are ready to serve, mix the tomato and mint with the bulgur. Mix in about half of the chick peas and sprinkle the rest over the top.