bulgur wheat

Bulgur Wheat Varnishkes

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Tisha B’av isn’t one of the better-known Jewish holidays. I’ve heard people say “oh yeah, I think that’s when you can’t get married.” Or, “you can’t get a haircut or listen to music.”

All true, and much more, and that’s because, unlike holidays when we celebrate joyful occasions such as a new year or deliverance from Pharaoh, Tisha B’av is when observant Jews mourn the destruction of the First and Second Temples. In addition, we remember the numerous times throughout history that the Jewish people were subjected to pogroms, exile and a multitude of other catastrophes. These are days that we don’t celebrate; we grieve.

Mournful times deserve respect and reflection. During the nine days leading up to the actual holiday (which begins at sundown on August 10th) many families will refrain from the usual pleasure-filled events and activities that make up our lives.

That includes getting married or getting a haircut or listening to music.

It also includes refraining from eating certain foods.

Tisha B’av is a full fast day, but during the days leading up to it many families don’t eat meat. Fish, dairy, vegetarian — is on the menu, and especially eggs and lentils, which are considered “mourner’s food.”

It’s just as well frankly. Skipping heavy meat meals during the hot weather makes good sense. It’s a whole lot smarter to eat fish, dairy and vegetarian.

Whether or not you follow the culinary guidelines during the Nine Days, this dish will do!

Anytime.

It’s my particular riff on classic kasha varnishkes. Our family really doesn’t like kasha, so I make the dish using bulgur wheat. Not only does it taste better, it’s easier to prepare and easier on the digestion.

Bulgur wheat or kasha varnishkes is usually a side dish, but it becomes a full meal if you add a fried egg or two on top.

Bulgur Wheat Varnishkes

  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 cup bulgur wheat

  • 1-3/4 cup water, vegetable stock (can use chicken stock)

  • 2 large onions, chopped

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • 6 ounces bow-tie pasta

  • 6 fried eggs

Heat 3 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the bulgur wheat and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3-4 minutes or until lightly toasted. Pour in the water or stock, bring to a boil, lower the heat and cover the pan. Cook for about 20 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring often, or until the onions are soft and browned. Cook the pasta according to directions on the package. Combine the bulgur wheat, pasta and onions in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Keep warm while you fry 6 eggs, sunnyside-up style.

Makes 6 servings

 

Tomatoes Stuffed with Bulgur Wheat, Raisins and Pine Nuts

Although it’s a nice reminder, it doesn’t have to be Meatless Monday for me to want a vegetarian dinner. Sometimes I am just sick of meat.  I grew up in the kind of house where dinner was the traditional: meat, starch, vegetable. We sometimes had vegetarian meals although my mother never called them that. When dinner included no meat or fish it was called a “dairy” meal. Once in a while my mother made a veggie burger, but that was rare indeed.  There was never anything like you see in the photo here: a tomato stuffed with bulgur wheat, toasted pignolis, raisins and fresh spinach.   Styles have changed. I still prepare the kind of dinners my mother made, although usually it’s meat and two vegetables and only sometimes a starch. This is the way I am used to eating.  But, as I said, sometimes I need a change, meaning a good vegetarian dinner, like this stuffed tomato. By itself it may not be enough for dinner, so add a soup or other vegetarian item to make a meal of it. Or serve two per person. It also goes nicely with grilled fish.   

Although it’s a nice reminder, it doesn’t have to be Meatless Monday for me to want a vegetarian dinner. Sometimes I am just sick of meat.

I grew up in the kind of house where dinner was the traditional: meat, starch, vegetable. We sometimes had vegetarian meals although my mother never called them that. When dinner included no meat or fish it was called a “dairy” meal. Once in a while my mother made a veggie burger, but that was rare indeed.

There was never anything like you see in the photo here: a tomato stuffed with bulgur wheat, toasted pignolis, raisins and fresh spinach. 

Styles have changed. I still prepare the kind of dinners my mother made, although usually it’s meat and two vegetables and only sometimes a starch. This is the way I am used to eating.

But, as I said, sometimes I need a change, meaning a good vegetarian dinner, like this stuffed tomato. By itself it may not be enough for dinner, so add a soup or other vegetarian item to make a meal of it. Or serve two per person. It also goes nicely with grilled fish.

 

Tomatoes Stuffed with Bulgur Wheat, Raisins and Pine Nuts

 

  • 6 large tomatoes
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 bunch spinach, washed thoroughly, dried and chopped
  • 1/2 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1 cup water or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

 

Slice off top part of the tomatoes and scoop the insides (save the pulp for other recipes). Sprinkle the insides of the tomatoes with salt and pepper. Place the tomatoes upside down on a rack. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook for 2-3 minutes or until lightly toasted. Remove the nuts and set aside. Add the remaining olive oil to the pan. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes or until just beginning to soften. Add the garlic and spinach and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the spinach has wilted. Add the bulgur wheat and mix ingredients. Add the water, bring the liquid to a boil, then remove the pan from the heat. Cover the pan and let rest for 25-30 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Add the raisins, parsley, dill, mint and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss ingredients and spoon into the hollowed tomatoes.

Makes 6 servings.

Bulgur Wheat Mujadarah

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Has anyone else noticed that people may or may not eat a particular food depending on what it’s called?

I know there’s a lot written about this but I saw it for myself yesterday, when I had a party at my house and served buffet style. One of the dishes was Mujadarah (there are lots of ways to spell this Middle Eastern dish). Everyone seemed taken by its name and helped themselves to some, which was terrific because it turned out to be one of the favorites of the day and people came back for seconds and more and there wasn’t a morsel left for today. :(

Only a couple of people asked what it was and when I explained it is made with bulgur wheat and lentils they hesitated.

Just say Mujadarah and people will eat it. It is a special dish. Not only delicious, but easy to make and you can cook it a day or so ahead of a party. It is also a vegetarian dish that is fabulously nutritious (high protein and fiber).

I once read that Mujadarah is the dish that the biblical Esau found so tempting that he sold his birthright to his brother Jacob for a bowlful. Recipes for this so-called “Esau’s Pottage” abound. Some of them contain meat or meat stock or vegetables. My recipe is fairly plain and simple. I make the onions at least one day ahead because the thick, rich juices leech out of the caramelized onions after a few hours and I pour these into the cooked bulgur and lentils for extra flavor. 

Make extra. This stuff goes (at least when you call it by its proper name).

Mujadarah

  • 1/2 cup olive oil

  • 3 large yellow onions, peeled and sliced

  • 3/4 cup lentils

  • 3 cups water or stock

  • 1 cup bulgur wheat

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • salt to taste

Heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions  and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until the onions are soft and brown. Spoon the onions into a container and cover the container. Refrigerate when cool if not serving the dish immediately. Place the lentils in a saucepan and cover with the water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook for 18 minutes. Add the bulgur wheat, stir, cover the pan and cook for another 5 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Let rest in the covered pan for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a bowl. Stir in the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil. Add the parsley and toss the ingredients. Add the cumin and salt to taste. If serving immediately, stir in the onions with any accumulated juices. If serving at a later time, stir in the onions and juices, cover the pan and reheat in a covered baking dish in a preheated 350 degree oven.

Makes 4 servings

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