Most grains take a long time to cook, but not bulgur. It is the convenience form of cracked wheat; the wheat kernels have already been cooked, dried and crushed.
Bulgur is most familiar from the Near Eastern parsley and mint salad tabbouleh, for which the bulgur needs no additional cooking but just a brief soak in lukewarm water. Perfectly fluffy bulgur can be prepared by soaking it in boiling-hot water for about 30 minutes, after which it is drained and squeezed dry. Of course, bulgur can also be cooked in broth, which takes about 20 minutes. Remember that, like cracked wheat, bulgur is available in fine, medium and coarse grades, so the cooking (or soaking) times will vary.
Bulgur makes a delicious pilaf. It can be mixed with rice or cooked on its own, as here. Roasted vegetables or broiled chicken make a good topping. For dessert, serve bowls of applesauce topped with vanilla yogurt.
BULGUR AND GARBANZO BEAN PILAF
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 cup bulgur or cracked wheat
1 cup canned garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup golden raisins or diced dried apricots
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
Combine onion and butter in deep wide skillet. Cook, stirring, over medium-low heat until onion is golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in bulgur, garbanzo beans, raisins and cinnamon stick.
Add broth and bring to boil. Stir once. Cover and cook over low heat until broth is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Let stand, covered, 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast almonds over low heat in small ungreased skillet, stirring, about 3 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick from pilaf. Sprinkle almonds over pilaf before serving.
Makes 4 servings.
ROASTED WINTER VEGETABLES
Use peeled, trimmed baby carrots for this recipe, if you can find them. Otherwise substitute regular carrots trimmed, peeled and cut into 2-inch lengths. If the carrots are too fat, halve them lengthwise as well.
1 medium parsnip, about 1/2 pound
4 cloves garlic
1 (16-ounce) bag baby carrots, rinsed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Peel parsnip and cut into 1/2-inch diagonal slices. Trim leek, wash thoroughly and cut into 1-inch lengths. Bruise garlic cloves with side of knife.
Combine carrots, parsnip, leek, garlic and olive oil in 13x9-inch baking dish. Stir to coat evenly with oil. Bake at 400 degrees, stirring occasionally, until carrots are almost tender and beginning to brown, about 35 minutes.
Trim zucchini, halve lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Stir into vegetable mixture and bake 10 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Makes 4 servings.