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Bulgur Basics

Bulgur, the famous ingredient in tabouli, is also a healthy choice for a host of other dishes

Bulgur is known by many names: burghul, boulgour, bulgar, tabouli mix, and bulghur. It has been a staple of the Mediterranean and Middle East for centuries. Bulgur is a product of the wheat kernel, or berry, and not actually a grain species. It can come from any wheat (usually durum), but can be red or white, summer or winter, soft or hard. The kernels are parboiled, dried, then cracked. This process means that bulgur is faster cooking than even cracked wheat, which is not cooked first.

Tabouli is one of the most popular dishes that uses bulgur, but it's also tasty in vegetarian chili and other entrees, not to mention casseroles, baked goods, and soups. Replace rice and couscous with bulgur for the added healthy benefits. Very high in fiber, low in fat, and packed with iron and B vitamins.

Bulgur is best kept refrigerated or frozen. There is a chance that the "germ," which is laden with oils, could turn rancid.

Tips for the Best Bulgur

When the grains are cooked, they will become triple in size. It's easy to overestimate the right amount.

Avoid the temptation to stir as overmixing can toughen the grains. They should be chewy, not hard.

To make bulgur "pilaf" style, heat oil in a skillet and add finely diced onions and the bulgur. Sauté first, then add the appropriate amount of liquid (your choice). Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes.

For a better soak, pour the needed amount of boiling water over the grains in a large bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit for 20 minutes. Most recommendations are to soak in cold water.

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