Bulgur: Amazing Mediterranean Grain

BulgurA staple food in Turkey and around the Middle East, nutty bulgur finds it way into tabbouleh, kibbeh, soups, stuffings and pilafs. It is often confused with cracked wheat, but it's a little different. Unlike cracked wheat, bulgur has been precooked and dried, which gives it that toasty flavor.
After drying, it is cracked and sieved through a series of strainers, so processors can offer it in various sizes from fine (#1) to coarse (#4). The finer bulgurs are used for kibbeh and tabbouleh, the coarser types for pilafs, stuffed grape leaves and other cooked dishes.
Bulgur cooks quickly (for some recipes, it's merely soaked) and it's a whole grain, making it a nutritious addition to a menu.
In Turkey, where people are connoisseurs of bulgur, there are at least 10 types. One prized variety, called firik, is made from green, or immature, wheat that is charred in the field to give it a smoky flavor. In Turkey, green wheat is mixed with plain bulgur for pilaf, or used to stuff eggplants and peppers. It's also used in Syria, North Africa and Egypt, where it may have originated.
Lentil and Bulgur Soup
Lentil Soup thickened with bulgur
Turkish food journalist Ayfer Unsal says that a typical peasant in Southeast Turkey, one of the country's poorer regions, might eat bulgur at every meal: in soup for breakfast, and in a pilaf to accompany vegetables at lunch and dinner. So common is bulgur in Turkey that discriminating palates can tell whether the grain was ground in a water mill or an electric mill. The latter heats the grain more and alters its flavor slightly.
Leftover bulgur pilaf is never discarded. Often it is mixed with chopped fresh onion, red pepper and cumin and used as a filling for a type ofbörek, or savory pie. The dish is so tasty, says Unsal, that some people make extra pilaf in order to have leftovers for böreks.
Use bulgur to thicken a vegetable stew or lentil soup. Pair it with other grains or legumes—rice, chick peas, couscous, lentils—in a pilaf. And explore the world of bulgur salads beyond tabbouleh. Unsal describes a Turkish bulgur salad with chopped fried onion, tomato paste, olive oil, red pepper, cumin, parsley and pomegranate molasses—a memorable side dish for roast chicken or a pita sandwich.
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