05 May 2012

Recipe(s) a Day: Two Bulgur Pilafs

I make bulgur pilaf all the time so I'm glad there are a lot of Turks in Bishkek. I usually make two different kinds.  I like the one with tomatoes and onion and my boys like the simpler one.  I always eat the first with yogurt.  It's easy to make the tomato pilaf first and then start the second while the first cooks. They'll finish at about the same time.

In the US you usually only have one choice when you buy bulgur, but there are actually four different sizes.  The biggest is good for pilafs, but it's usually a medium-sized bulgur that you find in the US.  I can get the bigger size here and that's what's in the photos.  Medium-sized bulgur is still delicious.

Here's what you'll need for the tomato and onion pilaf:

2-3 tablespoons oil- olive is best, but soybean or sunflower or whatever is fine too
One large chopped onion
2 large grated tomatoes, or a few tablespoons of tomato paste
1 cup bulgur
3/4 tsp cayenne, or to taste
1 tsp salt
1.5 cups chicken broth or water (I usually have to use chicken bouillon, unfortunately)

Heat your oil and start to cook your onion.

When the onion is starting to brown, add the tomato.  I don't have a photo of this, because I didn't have fresh tomatoes (it's almost cheap tomato season!), but if you have them, slice them in half and rub the cut side against a grater.  You'll end up with a pile of tomato pulp and the skin in your hand. It's amazing and easy.  I usually just grate directly into the pot to keep things neater.  If you're using tomato paste, just dump it in.  That looks more like 1/4 cup tomato paste, doesn't it?  Probably is.

If you used tomato paste, you just need to cook it for a minute or two before adding the rest of the ingredients. But if you used fresh, you'll want to slowly cook the tomato for about 10 minutes.  The flavor is noticeably better with fresh tomatoes and I really recommend using them when you can.

Now add the rest of your ingredients except the water/broth. 

And stir.

Add your water and turn the heat to high and bring to a boil.

When it's boiling well, cover and lower the heat as much as possible.  Cook for 20 minutes, but the timing is flexible.  15 minutes works too.

This pilaf is fairly moist right after it finishes cooking, so I like to turn off the heat, take the lid off, stir, and then let it sit for a few minutes before I eat it with yogurt.

For the pilaf with noodles you'll need:

2-3 tablespoons oil
A few handsful of pasta or broken noodles
2 cups bulgur
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cayenne or to taste
3 cups water

Heat your oil and add the pasta.  Broken spaghetti or thinner noodles are more traditional, but my boys like bigger pieces of pasta.

Brown the pasta.

And add the bulgur, salt and cayenne.

Add the water and bring to a boil.

Let it boil for about three minutes.  That should be about the time the water is level with the bulgur. I actually don't pay attention to the time anymore, but to the water level.  You could boil it a little longer than shown in the photo- the water level has just barely gotten low enough here.  Cover, lower the heat, and cook for 10 minutes.

Uncover, stir, and serve.

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