Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Bulgur Pilaf

I like the idea of a pilaf. By pilaf I mean some bulgur or grains flavored with broth, punched up by herbs or vegetables or fruit. A catch-all side dish to go with lots of meals or a main dish on its own if you like. Pilafs tend to be a bit on the bland side, however, and I’ve always meant to give the recipes I’ve tried more pizazz before talking about them here.

Recently, however, I tried this basic concept just because it is so basic, a bulgur pilaf with almonds and dried apricots. Really, it was the method I wanted to test, a method so simple and easily variable that a busy home cook could memorize it and always be ready to put something pretty good on the table.

This pilaf, like many others, doesn’t have a lot of zing or pow. It’s more or less meant to be a slightly humble accompaniment to dishes with big flavors, or to be jazzed up to suit your tastes as needed. I cooked this one with a rather delicate homemade vegetable broth, and just scallions and fresh parsley for seasoning. You could add stronger herbs or a complex variety, or sprinkle in some spices. I’d also like to try adding a splash of vinegar to brighten the flavors.

I like the idea of a simple bulgur dish on the side when I’m fiddling with other dishes in the meal. Once you boil up some flavorful liquid, or even water, and add it to bulgur, you don’t really need to babysit it. The bulgur just soaks up the liquid, and after about 20 minutes, it’s fluffy and, more importantly, edible. But if the rest of you meal, or the rest of your life, takes you more than that 20 minutes, the bulgur can wait for you to add the rest of the good stuff and reheat it when you’re ready.

I recently served this alongside this roasted cauliflower dish, which has pretty big flavors and requires at least a little bit of attention. The flavors in the pilaf are relatively mild and complemented rather than competed with the other dish. Just what I was looking for. Of course, that doesn’t mean that leftover Bulgur Pilaf with Almonds and Apricots wasn’t delicious on its own in as my lunch later in the week. (It was!)

Bulgur Pilaf with Almonds and Apricots
You could easily use sliced or slivered almonds if you have those on hand.

This recipe can be almost endlessly varied to your taste.

1 ½ cups vegetable stock or broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 cup medium-grain bulgur
½ cup chopped dried apricots
½ cup chopped almonds
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
½ cup finely chopped scallions
½ cup finely chopped parsley

1. Heat the vegetable stock until boiling. Keep it warm.

2. In a large skillet, preferably one with a tight-fitting lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute 30 seconds. Add the bulgur and toast, stirring frequently for about 2 minutes, or just until the bulgur begins to brown. Stir in the apricots and almonds.

3. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the hot vegetable stock and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover the skillet and let stand off the heat for 20 minutes.

4. After 20 minutes, almost all the liquid should be absorbed. Return the skillet to medium heat and stir in the scallions and parsley. Warm the pilaf just until the parsley and scallions are wilted. Taste for salt and add more if desired.

Makes about 4 side dish servings.

Other recipes like this one: Cranberry Walnut Tabbouleh, Quinoa Stuffing

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