Saturday, February 18th, 2012 at 10:52 pm

The Cooking Chronicles: Cooking with Bulgur

Amy Pennington, in Urban Pantry, describes bulgur as the “gateway drug for whole grains” due to its ease of preparation and wide availability. I have to admit that bulgur wasn’t really on my radar until recently, after I bookmarked a few recipes that featured bulgur in the ingredients list. I picked up a bag from the bulk section of Save-On, and have been working my way through the recipes with varied success.

Quickly Stewed Tomatoes and Sausage with Bulgur

Mark Bittman rarely lets me down, but he did with this recipe. Part of it had to do with my expectations – I was anticipating a less soupy consistency, hoping that the bulgur would plump up and absorb most of the liquid.

Quickly Stewed Tomatoes with Sausage and Bulgur

Stewed tomatoes and sausage with bulgur

That wasn’t the case, and the result was a stew containing bulgur that didn’t really add anything to the dish.

Meat-and-Grain Loaf

Bittman made up for the disappointment with the next recipe we tried, one for a meat-and-grain loaf (I considered it a major victory when Mack asked for a meatloaf that was lighter on the meat).

We had a pound of Nature’s Green Acres ground beef, and mixed it with some reheated chopped, frozen spinach, diced onion, garlic, egg, cooked bulgur and seasonings. I knew my proportions were off, as I had added way too much spinach and bulgur, but I thought it would work out in the end.

Grain and Meat Loaf

Meat-and-grain loaf, with cabbage and lemon salad

The loaf came out fine, but because of its size, required over an hour and a half to cook in the oven. It was undoubtedly the healthiest meatloaf we had ever made, and with the grains and vegetables in each bite, could have been a meal all on its own. I also liked the use of bulgur in this way, adding some additional nutrients in place of breadcrumbs.

Bulgur & Citrus Salad

I’ve mentioned in the past that I do my best to prepare vegetarian dishes for potlucks at work (because many of my coworkers have meat-related dietary restrictions), so I was eager to try a recipe for bulgur & citrus salad in Urban Pantry for this purpose.

Bulgur was without a doubt the star ingredient, livened with the inclusion of pine nuts, parsley, mint, dried currants, orange zest, orange juice, red wine vinegar and some olive oil. I found, however, that to get the “sweet-citrusy pop” that Pennington described, I had to double the amount of zest and juice. It resulted in a fragrant salad, but perhaps not the most ideal consistency, as the bulgur was almost mushy.

Citrus and Bulgar Salad

Citrus & bulgur salad

After sitting overnight in the fridge, the sweetness intensified, but it didn’t help the bulgur. More herbs, added to freshen up the salad at the last moment would have been a good idea, too.

I haven’t given up on bulgur yet – what are your favourite uses for the grain?

  • supersu

    sharon,
    bulger is an ingredient that i rarely use!  i enjoyed this post-and think that the citrus salad sounds divine.  i think that there are different ‘grinds’ of bulger…perhaps a less processed grind would produce a different consistency?
    i love reading your cooking chronicles….its good to see the home runs and the misses too!

    cheers
    su  :)

  • http://www.onlyhereforthefood.ca/ Sharon

    Su – that would make sense that there are different sizes of bulgur – I really should look into that. Thanks for reading – I think I post all of the failures more for me (so I remember what mistakes I made), but I am glad you find it interesting too :).

  • Michelle

    I know this post is old, so you may have already solved your bulgur issues (I’ve just discovered your blog while looking for some info on some of the new restaurants in Edm), but I have some thoughts to add on bulgur :)

    Supersu is right, there are some different types of bulgur, and I’ve noticed the same product being sold under different names at different stores. I have seen two products: “Bulgur” and “Cracked wheat”: the names seem to be used interchangabley, but the grains are very different. One is a yellowish, oblong shaped grain that must be boiled. The other is tan-coloured and shaped like rocks or crystals, and must only be soaked in hot water for a few minutes. Maybe in the dish that turned out soupy, they called for the kind that needs boiling, but you found the kind that only needs soaking?

    In any case, I prefer the one that needs soaking only. I have seen it sold under the name cracked wheat and bulgur. (My current bag is from Save-On, from that section where they have a large number of indian spices, and it’s called cracked wheat). Lots of recipes say it needs soaking for 25-30 minutes, but I usually taste after 10 mins and find the texture is lovely. (Contrarily, I once accidentally soaked the kind that needs simmering, before I discovered the difference, and it was still crunchy after the full 25 mins)

    Here are my two absolute fave salad recipes to use it in:

    http://www.marthastewart.com/317072/mediterranean-grain-salad?czone=food/vegetarian-cnt/vegetarian-favorite-recipes&center=852566&gallery=275563&slide=285124

    http://topoftheapple.com/2011/04/24/bulgur-wheat-salad-with-avocado-cucumber-mint/

    (Note: one of those recipes calls for the grain to be soaked, and the other calls for it to be simmered. Apparently different regions of the world have different names for these two grains – very confusing!)

    PS – I love your blog :) Keep it up!

  • http://www.onlyhereforthefood.ca/ Sharon

    Thanks for reading, Michelle, and for the comment! I actually have stayed away from bulgur since finding other whole grains to experiment with. The links and tips will come in handy when I’m ready to go back to bulgur again!