Bulgur wheat is one of the more versatile and easy-to-cook whole grains available. Sometimes confused with cracked wheat, which is raw, bulgur consists of finely-ground wheat kernels that have been steamed, hulled and dried. Because it has been partially cooked, bulgur is quick and convenient for the home cook to use in a wide assortment of recipes. It's available in fine, medium and coarse grinds.
You can cook basic bulgur with either water or milk. Simply pour 2 ½ cups of boiling liquid over 1 cup of fine or medium-grind bulgur and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Add toppings as you would with oatmeal, such as toasted nuts or dried fruit such as raisins or cut apricots.
The classic bulgur dish, tabbouleh, is a Middle Eastern dish that you can serve as a side dish or, with the addition of extra ingredients, as a main dish. Soak the bulgur as you would for a basic bulgur dish. Traditional tabbouleh has more chopped parsley than it does bulgur, but this is a matter of taste. In addition to parsley, add chopped scallion, tomatoes, red onion and mint. Toss all the ingredients with equal amounts of olive oil and lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste. Extra ingredients that are less traditional include toasted almonds and chunks of feta or goat cheese. Substitute any prepared vinaigrette for the olive oil and lemon juice.
Bulgur is an ideal substitute for any dish that you would make with rice or pasta. For pilaf, sauté the bulgur in oil with onions. Add chicken or vegetable stock and any additional vegetable such as finely diced carrots, shredded cabbage or small, diced tomatoes. Simmer for 10 minutes and let sit for 15 minutes until the bulgur is tender. Add toasted nuts or chunks of feta or goat cheese before serving for additional protein.
Cooked bulgur forms the base for bulgur croquettes, small fried patties. Combine 1 cup of cooked bulgur, 1 cup of chopped walnuts, ¼ cup flour, half an onion (finely chopped), one egg, salt and pepper. Form the mixture into small patties, dredge in flour and fry for five to seven minutes. Serve these patties as you would hamburgers, or alone with a yogurt sauce or lemon wedges.