If you want to liven up your usual meals with adventurous ingredients, a well-stocked pantry can provide endless inspiration. This recipe for colorful Middle Eastern-style bulgur pilaf gets brightness from fresh mint and parsley and texture from pistachios and golden raisins. A dressing made of roasted garlic, olive oil and pomegranate molasses, or pomegranate juice boiled down to a syrupy state, adds just the right finishing touch.
We usually think of roasting garlic heads, but you can also roast individual cloves. Place them on a baking sheet and roast at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Let the cloves cool for about 10 minutes. Cut off the end of each clove and gently squeeze the pulp into a bowl.
Turning wheat into bulgur is an ancient process that originated in the Mediterranean region and has been an integral part of Middle Eastern cuisine for thousands of years. Bulgur is available in four sizes; I use the largest size bulgur grain I can find (#4), but you can use whatever size you have on hand or in farro or barley. The result is a delicious main dish or holiday side that vegetarians will love, too, minus the feta and subs in the veg for the chicken.
Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish
1 tablespoon butter or oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 cup bulgur
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1½ cups chicken or vegetable broth
¼ cup pomegranate seeds
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
¼ cup fresh mint, chopped
¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled
¼ cup golden raisins or other dried fruit
¼ cup shelled, toasted and salted pistachios
½ cup canned chickpeas, drained
3 cloves of fried garlic
1 tablespoon of pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Heat the butter in a large saucepan, then add the shallots and fry until translucent.
Add the bulgur wheat and toss with the shallots. Add tomato paste, cumin, ½ teaspoon salt, and stock. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or according to package directions (smaller bulgur wheat takes less time to cook). Once ready, let cool until warm.
Meanwhile, blend the garlic, pomegranate molasses and olive oil in a small food processor until smooth.
Place the bulgur mixture on a serving bowl or plate. Add pomegranate seeds, fresh herbs, feta, raisins, pistachios and chickpeas. Drizzle the pomegranate molasses over the bulgur mixture and toss gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Bay Area food writer Blanche Shaheen is the host of the YouTube cooking show Middle Eastern Feast. Find her Middle Eastern Cookbook and other recipes at www.feastinthemiddleeast.com.