bulgur

Our old friend David went to Seattle last year and brought us a little tin filled with the aromatic Turkish powder, baharat, from that city’s famous Public Market. I have been shy about using it. Frankly, I thought the spice mix was for meat dishes only. So I’d sort of side-lined it to the back of the spice cabinet, that is until I read Yotam Ottolenghi uses baharat in a tabbouleh recipe from his new book, Jerusalem.

Yotam’s baharat-seasoned tabbouleh

Yotam’s baharat-seasoned tabbouleh

So I did a little research. Turns out, baharat is a mélange of allspice, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamonn, cloves, coriander, cumin, chili pepper and nutmeg. It has a wonderful scent.

Yotam’s baharat-seasoned tabbouleh

½ cup bulgur
3 large ripe tomatoes, chopped fine
2 shallots, chopped fine, rinsed in running cold water
Juice of 3 lemons or more
3 large bunches of Italian parsley, washed, drained and chopped fine
5 leaves of escarole, washed, drained and chopped fine
2 bunches mint, rinsed, dried and chopped fine
2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp baharat mix
1/3 to ½ cup first cold press, top quality, arbequina olive oil
Sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Rinse bulgur in a strainer. Add to a bowl, cover with water and let soak for ½ hour. Drain and squeeze it to remove as much water as possible. Transfer to a large bowl, add tomatoes, shallot, parsley, mint, escarole, spices, salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Add lemon juice and about two thirds of the olive oil. Toss again. Let it rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Just before serving add more olive oil and lemon juice and toss again.

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harrisa, pigeon pea and saffron studded bulgur

harrisa, pigeon pea and saffron studded bulgur

The Jan/Feb 2011 Vegetarian Times magazine just came out. They’ve an interesting recipe for bulgur to accompany a roasted broccoli with tahini sauce. I made both dishes the other day but couldn’t resist altering the bulgur recipe. The original calls for it to be cooked with raisins, vegetable broth, tomato paste and that’s all. Don’t you think it would taste too sweet?

I like the idea of the tartness of the raisins but I was not so sure about it, at least to go with the broccoli. Roasted broccoli is already very sweet. Destiny intervened: I discovered that we’d run out of raisins. Problem solved. Instead I cooked the bulgur with some spicy harissa sauce, a few strands of saffron, and, to add extra protein to the dish, I also used some pigeon peas.

It came out very flavorful with the added bonus of having a healthy hippie granola style look. Fabulous!

harrisa, pigeon pea and saffron studded bulgur

2 cups coarse bulgur
2½ cups vegetable broth*
1 can pigeon peas, drained
½ tsp harissa sauce
several saffron threads
3 tbsp tomato paste
black pepper
kosher salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

*I prefer to make my own vegetable broth. For this one, I had the top dark leaves of four leeks, half an onion and a carrot. Just throw everything together in a pot with some water, bring to a boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes. Leftovers can be frozen for later use. Endless permutations are possible. You can use onion peel, celery, parsley, cilantro, etc. This makes a fresher broth without as much salt and who-knows-what preservatives. Anytime a recipe calls for vegetable broth search the vegetable tray of you fridge. You’ll be surprised to see all that you need is there. Cheap and healthy!

Add hot vegetable broth, harrisa, saffron threads, tomato paste, black pepper and kosher salt to a pot. Stir to combine. Add bulgur and pigeon peas, stir again, turn temperature to low and simmer for about 15-18 minutes. To prevent sticking stir every 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and keep covered for 5 minutes before serving.

This would make a great filling in a vegetable casserole, too.

We had bulgur leftover which we ate the following day wrapped in toasted nori leaves (dry seaweed sheets like you have at sushi bars). Mmmmm!!!!

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bulgur love

by Stevie on November 15, 2010

Recently Hegui went on a mini bulgur cooking frenzy, making mushroom and pink bean bulgur loaf and Brazilian style tabuli in a single afternoon. He over estimated the amount of bulgur needed so we had about two pints leftover. Well, I didn’t want to waste it and we all know that necessity is the mother of invention. So “bulgur love” is born.

bulgur love in hommage to the Summer of Love and modern hippies everywhere

bulgur love in hommage to the Summer of Love and modern hippies everywhere

Actually, I feel pretty confident that recipes similar to this are made everywhere. Here’s a nice example from Cookin’ Canuck. After all, I’ve really just added everything in the kitchen to the bulgur to make a flavorful, colorful and hopefully wholesome main dish, e.g a bulgur pilaf. I’m inspired by Hegui’s delicious and under appreciated, quinoa love.

Obviously, we’ve made up the names. They’re not very descriptive so I’d guess that search engines can’t figure them out too well. Our initial idea was that quinoa love was a vegetarian dish in homage to the Summer of Love in San Francisco, Flower Power and all that. Plus, cooking itself is an act of love. So what better way to honor a key ingredient then by surrounding it with a thrilling assortment of other, exciting, supporting cast members, all served up on a huge platter with metaphorical trumpets blaring? That’s the grandiose concept, anyway.

The beauty of this recipe is that you can mix and match almost all of the ingredients, perhaps even changing bulgur for another grain (maybe quinoa 😉 even.) I used a lot of stuff with intense flavors to make this vegan dish really pop. I hope that you enjoy it as much as we did.

downtown San Francisco at dusk

downtown San Francisco at dusk

bulgur love

2 pints coarse bulgur, pre-soaked for an hour and drained
1 container firm tofu
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 bunch kale, stems finely chopped and leaves, coarsely
2 cups black beans, drained
1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
1 red jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, sliced thin
½ cucumber, sliced thin
12 stuffed green olives, cut in halves
¼ cup fresh mint, minced
¼ cup Italian parsley, minced
6 spring onions, chopped fine
1 medium onion, sliced thin
¼ cup sun dried tomatoes, minced
12 cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
lime juice to taste
extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste

Rinse tofu, cut into bite size rectangles and soak in a warm saltwater bath for about twenty minutes. This will add salt to the tofu and give it more flavor.

In a separate bowl, let cucumber slices soak in a saltwater bath. Hegui’s convinced that this step improves the flavor though I’m still doubtful about it.

While tofu soaks, heat some olive oil on medium and add garlic, kale stems and a dash of salt. Sauté until stems become tender. Add kale leaves and cook until they wilt a bit. Remove from heat and set aside.

Rinse tofu. Heat some olive oil in a small skillet on high. Add tofu and gently fry for a few minutes on each side until it browns slightly. Carefully remove to a dish and set aside.

In a large skillet, add sliced onion, red and jalapeño pepper, some salt and olive oil. Sauté until vegetables reduce and onion begins to caramelize (about five to eight minutes). Add black beans to onion and sauté together to warm through. Fold bulgur into cooked onion. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

Drain and rinse cucumber. Add cucumber, olives, herbs, spring onion, tomatoes (dried and cherry), and kale to bulgur mixture. Fold everything together. Add lime juice, more olive oil and adjust salt. Pour into a large serving platter then place tofu rectangles on top. Serve and enjoy.

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Tabouli is a Middle East dish that is very popular in Brazil. It arrived there with Lebanese immigrants and became so integrated into Brazilian culinary traditions that for me it has always been comfort food.

tabouli with endive and escarole

tabouli with endive and escarole

The basic ingredients for traditional tabouli are cracked wheat, lime juice, good olive oil, tomatoes, cucumber, salt and pepper. In Brazil we like to do things differently, so we go a little crazy with fresh herbs and leafy vegetables. Endive and escarole have a distinct bitter taste, which adds a stimulating depth to this otherwise traditional dish. Steven didn’t even complain! That really must say something. Though now that I’ve gotten him to eat the stuff, how do you pair red wine with bitter greens such as dandelion, treviso, radicchio, sow thistle and so on and on?

I think that the secret to tabouli, and really any good food, is to make it with the freshest ingredients that you can find. I served this dish as a side to mushroom-pink bean loaf (it’s a funny name, though better than “vegetarian meat loaf,” don’t you think? It truly looked a bit pink, but the taste was out of this world!)

tabouli with endive and escarole

2 cups coarse cracked wheat (bulgur), pre-soaked in water for 2 hours, drained
½ bunch Italian parley, chopped
½ bunch mint, chopped
1 red endive chopped
1 white endive, chopped
4 fresh Texas spring onions (those spring onions with a little bulb attached to it), chopped
10 leaves escarole, chopped
10 pearl tomatoes, halved
½ English cucumber, cut into thin half moons and soaked in salted cold water for 10 min, then rinsed
Juice of about 5 limes
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup extra virgin Arbequina olive oil

Place the first 9 ingredients in a large bowl and gently mix with a spatula or by hand. Add salt, freshly ground pepper. Squeeze in lime juice and add olive oil. Toss it again. Taste and adjust flavors. Let it sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving. Yumm!

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This recipe was adapted from The Best – Ever Vegetarian Cookbook by Nicola Graimes. I bought it recently while perusing a used bookshop in downtown Reno a couple of weeks ago. We went there to visit our friends Karen and Veronica.

bolo de feijão rosinha com cogumelos, or vegetarian mushroom and pink bean loaf

bolo de feijão rosinha com cogumelos, or vegetarian mushroom and pink bean loaf

It was fun spending the weekend at their gi-normous house, their two lovely and charming kids, Cooper and Madison, plus all their pets. Wow! They’ve got four dogs, two bunnies, two cats and a lizard. Amazingly, everyone got along just fine, that is until we brought our English bulldog, Clarence, to the party. I guess he needs to get out more and socialize. He freaked out for the first evening we were there but thank goodness he finally settled down! We were afraid that our weekend was going to turn into a disaster. Maybe with Clarence entering middle age now, he’s becoming a little less rambunctious.

This loaf cake is a very granola-style dish, though it tastes great even so. All of your vegetarian and even “full-feeding” friends will enjoy it. It calls for a lot of ingredients and it is a bit laborious but well worth it.

The original recipe used red kidney beans, but I only had pink ones, feijão rosinha in Portuguese, which I cooked myself from a package of dried beans. I think they have a sweeter taste and look cuter than red kidney. You can use canned beans to save time. I prefer the taste of home cooked beans over the canned type, plus they’re cheaper and they freeze well.

My version of this dish departs in numerous other ways from the original in the Graimes cookbook, though she remains my inspiration. In a way, it reminds me of Taste of Beirut style eggplant bulgur casserole, as some of the ingredients are very similar.

bolo de feijão rosinha com cogumelos, or vegetarian mushroom and pink bean loaf

1 lb crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 white onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 tbsp dry white wine
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 cup cooked pink beans
1 egg white, lightly beaten
½ cup cream of wheat
1 cup cracked wheat (bulgur), pre-soaked for 2 hours and drained
1 tbsp fresh thyme, minced
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
extra virgin olive oil
red pepper flakes

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Grease a loaf pan with olive oil then line with parchment paper and set aside.

Place 2 tbsp of olive oil, onion and garlic in a pan on medium heat. Sauté for a couple of minutes to bring to a sweat. Add mushrooms, bell pepper, white wine, sherry vinegar and continue sautéing for few minutes until mushrooms and peppers have softened slightly. Turn heat off and let cool a bit.

Transfer sautéed vegetables to food processor. Add beans and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and using a spatula add cream of wheat, bulgur, nutritional yeast, black pepper, salt, thyme, rosemary, pepper flakes and about one tbsp of olive oil. Taste it and adjust flavors if necessary. Fold in egg white.

Press dough into leaf pan. Bake for about an hour. Check for doneness during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Remove from oven let it rest for 5 minutes. Invert loaf on a platter and remove parchment paper. Turn it over again. Drizzle olive oil over loaf and garnish with fresh herbs. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The nutrional yeast gives this loaf a bit of a parmesan cheese-like taste, and, with the mushrooms, makes the dish rich in B vitamins.

Cooper on the move

Cooper on the move


Maddie says hi

Maddie says hi

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This recipe was adapted from VegNews, a vegan magazine I got for free at the 26th Toronto vegetarian food fair Steven and I attended recently on a trip to Canada. It attracted my attention because it uses healthy ingredients that I happen to love: bulgur, black-eyed-peas and kale. It also requires a homemade spice mix which I enjoy preparing. Toasting, mixing, and grinding spices fill the house with magical aromas.

Mediterranean bulgur black-eyed-pea pilaf

Mediterranean bulgur black-eyed-pea pilaf

The original recipe calls for a coarser bulgur than I had. Since I didn’t want to go shopping for that special bulgur last minute, I made do with what was there. The dish tasted great though it didn’t turn out as fluffy as I expected. I’m sure that’s due to the bulgur. When you try this recipe use the coarser type. The VegNews recipe doesn’t call for toasting the spices, but I did as I think that toasting brings out the flavors. The spice blend is called baharat and many countries in the Mediterranean have their own version. This one is sort of Lebanese inspired.

Mediterranean bulgur black-eyed-pea pilaf

1 cup bulgur (preferably the coarser type)
1 cup warm water or vegetable broth
1 large white onion, cut into tiny cubes
1 bunch kale or collard greens, rinsed and chopped fine
½ bunch whole scallions, chopped into thin rounds
4 tbsp olive oil
3 sweet Nantes carrots, cubed
2 cups cooked black-eyed-peas
4 tsp baharat spice mix (see below)
Kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
A few squirts of lemon or lime juice
2 ears sweet corn, cooked and broken into small pieces
several Kalamata olives

baharat spice mix

1tbsp black pepper
1½ tbsp coriander seeds
1½ tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp fenugreek
5 cardamom pods
1 tbsp ground ginger

Soak bulgur in liquid for about a half hour.

Add all spices for baharat mix, except ginger, to a skillet and toast for a minute to bring out their aromas. Pour spices into a grinder and pulse until powdered. Add ground ginger and pulse again. Set aside.

Add 2 tbsp olive oil to a large pan. Add onion and cook until browned a bit. Add kale, carrot, scallion and sauté until kale has wilted. Add black-eyed peas, baharat mix and bulgur. Reduce heat to low and simmer for a few minutes to warm through. Adjust flavors by adding more baharat, salt and perhaps a bit more black pepper. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with sweet corn and olives. Drizzle with remaining olive oil. Squeeze lemon over everything.

I served this with quibebe clássico or savory winter squash with garlic and olive oil.

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fish kibe AKA kibe de peixe

This recipe comes from our new friend, Nagib. We just got to know him last week while he was in San Francisco for a conference. He knows our lovely friend, Omar, who we met through John last year. Small world: Omar is from Lebanon and Nagib is Brazilian of Lebanese descent. Apparently Nagib went to Lebanon on vacation and met Omar there.

Omar kept raving about Nagib’s cooking: Lebanese style with a Brazilian flair. So when Nagib finally got here, I couldn’t miss the chance to ask him for a favorite recipe or two. It turned out that one of his favorites is kibe (also quibe or kebbeh) which happens to be one of mine too!

John had a dinner party at his house on the weekend Nagib was in town. It was weirdcombinations themed! He made bacalhoada and fire-roasted asparagus with cilantro pesto. Wow! We’re famous 😉 I contributed with Nagib’s fish kibe as an appetizer. The food was fantastic and so was the company! You missed out, Omar!

fish kibe

1lb fine bulgur
1 lb ricotta cheese
1lb skinless, boneless dover sole (or other white flesh fish)
3 limes
1 white onion (sweet Vidalia)
½ cup mint leaves, chopped fine, and more
Kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/3 tsp ground cinnamon
½ cup pine nuts
Crushed red pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Soak bulgur in water for a couple of hours. After soaking, lay a kitchen towel at the bottom of your colander. Pour soaked bulgur over it. Using the towel, squeeze as much liquid out of the bulgur as possible. Transfer bulgur to a bowl.

Rinse fish and pat dry. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and juice of 1 lime. Set aside and let marinate for 5 minutes.

Place pine nuts in a skillet with some olive oil. Sauté them for a couple of minutes being careful not to burn them. Set aside in a bowl.

layering with pine nuts and ricotta

Transfer fish to food processor. Add peppers, cinnamon, 1/3 cup olive oil, about 1 tsp of kosher salt and mint. Pulse until fish turns into a thick paste. Add the bulgur to the food processor and pulse to mix. I had to do this in batches.

Oil a 9×13 inch glass baking dish with olive oil. Spread half of the fish bulgur mixture over the bottom of dish, making sure it is flat and even. Spread ricotta cheese over it. Sprinkle with pine nuts, more mint, pepper and salt. Cover with remaining fish bulgur mixture. Press into dish firmly to remove air bubbles.

I cut my kibe into rectangles before baking

Using a sharp knife cut kibe into your favorite geometrical shape (traditionally, squares or lozenges). To keep lines straight, rinse the knife in cold water between each cut. This will prevent it from breaking apart after its baked. Drizzle with olive oil.

Pre heat oven. In Brazil, ovens don’t have temperature marks like ours do in the U.S. There it’s just hot: medium, low or super hot. So I always struggle with baking Brazilian recipes here because I’ve no idea of the right way to convert baking temperatures and times.

This recipe calls for baking it in a ‘hot’ oven for 30 minutes covered in foil, then another 15 minutes without the foil to brown top. I decided that ‘hot’ was 350F but I was wrong! After the initial 45 minutes I baked it for another 15 minutes at 450F and then another 8 minutes more uncovered to brown! It worked, but how exasperating!

I’d recommend that you try to bake it at 450F from the start for 30 minutes covered with foil, then for 15 more minutes uncovered.

fish kibe fresh from the oven, yum!

It’s done when it’s brown. Let cool then gently remove from dish to serving platter. Garnish with lemon wedges and sprigs of mint. Yum!

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stuffed sumac mint bulgur dumplings

This recipe comes from “The Rural Taste of Lebanon: a Food Heritage Trail.” I found it appealing because I’m unfamiliar with sumac, which I’ve also seen spelled “somak,” and I wanted to see what it might taste like.

The potato onion filling reminded me a lot of what you might stuff into Polish perogies. I had too much filling for the amount of dough, so we ate it the following night sautéed with vegetables.

I improvised a lot with the amounts of the ingredients as the original recipe measures everything in grams. I don’t have a kitchen scale. Also I used fresh rather than dried mint.

Making the dumplings proved to be a bit messier than I’d originally expected. I was very worried that they would fall apart while poaching, but they all turned out fine. I still have trouble describing the taste of sumac. The cookbook calls it “bitter and slightly acid.” That’s probably right. Yet it has a distinct flavor that that description doesn’t adequately pinpoint. A Lebanese friend of ours, Omar, was very familiar with this dish. He says that sumac has a citrusy flavor. Maybe…

This was good but not our favorite. They looked like large meat balls, though the recipe is completely vegan. Perhaps you might have suggestions for improvement?

some key ingredients for stuffed sumac mint dumplings

Stuffed Sumac and Mint Bulgur Dumplings

1½ cups bulgur
¾ cup and 2 tsp sumac
1½ cups all purpose flour
1 small bunch fresh mint, finely chopped
5 small onions (or 2 medium), peeled and sliced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into small dice
Kosher salt
Olive oil

Rinse bulgur then place in large bowl. Fill with boiling water, cover and let soak for 1 to 2 hours.

Prepare filling by boiling diced potato for about fifteen minutes. Drain and set aside. Sauté onion in some olive oil, about five minutes, until translucent. Add potatoes and salt to taste. Fold together. Set aside.

Drain soaked bulgur. Mix with 2 tsp sumac, mint, flour and salt to taste. Flour a work surface. Pour bulgur mixture onto surface and knead for about five minutes. You might add more water or more flour to control consistency. Mine seemed too wet but turned out perfectly well in the end.

some shaped stuffed dumplings waiting to be poached

Divide dough into about ten to twelve equal rounds. To stuff, insert the index finger of one hand into a round held in the other. Stuff with some of the potato and onion filling. Cover opening with bulgur dough.

To poach, boil a large pot of water with ¾ cup sumac for about ten minutes. Strain water and return to stove. Reduce to simmer. Gently place dumplings into water and allow to simmer for ten minutes. This may take more than one batch. Remove from sumac water to a serving dish. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs.

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homemade vegetarian quibe AKA khichcar

April 12, 2010

Last month we received a beautiful and rare cookbook, The Rural Taste of Lebanon by Chérine Yazbeck, as a gift from our blogger friend, Joumana Accad, from Taste of Beirut. Joumana, thanks again for this exciting gift! The author, Yazbeck, focuses on traditional and less well-known foods from the Lebanese countryside. She seems bowled over […]

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Taste of Beirut style eggplant tomato bulgur casserole without the dish

March 16, 2010

We at weirdcombinations have become big fans of Taste of Beirut (which I’ll abbreviate as “ToB” here). Many of the exciting recipes on that blog offer delicious vegetarian options and creative uses of seasonal ingredients all presented in an accessible and personal style that we really enjoy. Last week I saw the ToB post for […]

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