Very likely, you're already into whole wheat—as many of us are—because it's cheap, readily available almost anywhere, handy to store, and versatile. If you like this grain as is, though, you may find that you like it even better parched and cracked ... because bulgur—as the roasted product is called—cooks faster than whole or cracked plain wheat and has a sweet, nutlike flavor and crunchy texture which natural food lovers usually enjoy.
Wheat in this form has been a staple in the diets of Middle Eastern peoples for many centuries. It's also been produced commercially in the United States for some years and can be bought in the supermarkets of most large cities. However—if you're not a great customer of the garbagemarts these days—you'll be glad to know that you can easily make your own bulgur at home:
 Wash your wheat well in cool water three or four times, pour off any chaff and discard the liquid. If the grain is very dirty you may have to pick It over for rocks and such.
 Boil the clean cereal in enough water to cover until all the liquid is absorbed and the kernels are tender and swollen to twice their original size. This usually takes 35-45 minutes.
 Spread the wheat out thin on a cookie sheet or in shallow pans and leave it in the oven at 200°F until it's completely dry.
 if necessary, rub the kernels between your hands to remove any chaff that may be left.
 Use your mill or grinder to crack the wheat into medium-sized pieces about the size of regular cracked wheat. (Take it easy . . . you're not making flour!) You could even use a mortar and pestle, a hammer, a metate, or a rock if no machine is available. Or, if you just don't have anything to break up the grain with, you can use the wheat whole. It's still good, but it's chewier and takes longer to cook.
 Store the bulgur in a tightly closed container. Then, to cook the cereal whenever you want it, just boil it in water (for 5-10 minutes) until it has approximately doubled in bulk.
Once you've made your first batch of bulgur, you'll find plenty of possibilities for its use. Eat the cereal plain, use it as a meat extender, add it to bread and rolls, put it in cookies and salads . . . the limit is your imagination. Here's a few recipes to get you started:
2 Tbs. oil
2 cups bulgur
4 cups water, stock, tomato juice
Heat the oil in a pan, add the bulgur and saute until all the grains are coated. Add water or stock (the more flavorful the cooking liquid, the better the bulgur). Cover the pan tightly and simmer for 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.
Follow the basic recipe, but while the wheat simmers add chopped onion, diced green pepper, diced celery, mushrooms, herbs or whatever you feel inspired to throw in.
2 cups bulgur
4 cups water
salt to taste
Bring the salted water to a boil, slowly add the bulgur and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Serve with milk and brown sugar or honey.
1/4 cup oil or bacon drippings
1 onion, chopped
1/4 lb. mushrooms (optional)
2 cups bulgur
1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbs. parsley, chopped
4 cups salted stock
Sauté onions and mushrooms in oil until the onions are golden. Add the bulgur and sesame seeds and stir until the grains are coated with oil. Then put in the stock, garlic and parsley, and cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
Prepare basic pilaf and, while it's cooking, add your choice of vegetables and herbs plus any leftover pieces of meat or chicken. When the pilaf is done, put it all in a casserole and sprinkle the top with grated cheese (cheddar, jack, etc.). Set the dish in the oven or under the broiler to brown.
This recipe will stuff a 4-to-6-lb. fowl, or it can be used as filling for vegetables like squash, big zucchini, cabbage roils, or green peppers.
1/4 cup oil
2 cups bulgur
4 cups stock (chicken is best)
herbs as desired
1 onion, chopped or ground
2 stalks celery with tops, chopped or ground
1 green pepper, chopped or ground
cooked giblets (optional), chopped
Heat the oil, add the bulgur, and sauté. Pour in the stock and the rest of the ingredients, and cover and simmer 15 minutes. Let the stuffing cool slightly before you use it.
1 cup bulgur
3 cups hot water
1/2 cup salad oil
1 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped onions (preferably green)
6 Tbs. lemon or lime juice
2 cups cut-up firm tomatoes
Cover the bulgur with hot water, soak 30 minutes, and drain well. Mix in all the other ingredients except the tomatoes and let the salad stand, covered, to cool. When you're ready to serve it, add the tomatoes and mix thoroughly The dish can be garnished with hard-boiled eggs, olives, more tomato wedges, etc. . . . for pretty.
Use bulgur either cooked or soaked in hot water (see the recipe for Bulgur Salad) and add a dashful—depending on your tastes—to any coleslaw recipe.
(adapted from The Natural Foods Cookbook by Beatrice Trum Hunter)
1/4 cup bulgur
2 cups milk
1/2 cup raisins
2 eggs, separated
4 Tbs. honey
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Mix the bulgur, milk, and salt in a double boiler, and cover and cook one hour over hot water. Remove the pan from the heat and add the raisins. When this mixture is cool, stir it very gradually into the beaten egg yolks, add the honey and nutmeg, and fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites. Bake the pudding in an oiled casserole set in a dish of hot water at 325° for one hour or until it's set.
The ideas I've given here are just a few of bulgur's many uses. For instance, you can add the cereal to bread and yeast rolls or to cookies if you first cover the grain with water and let it stand overnight so that it won't be too hard and chewy. You can also toss cooked bulgur—like croutons—into mixed green salad (as in the coleslaw recipe) or you can use it as a meat extender just like bread, oatmeal or cracked wheat. (Leftover bulgur that was cooked in meat broth is particularly good for this purpose.) In fact, this adaptable cereal can be used nearly any way you're accustomed to handling cracked wheat, and works well in almost all rice recipes. In short, bulgur is a remarkably versatile addition to your diet . . . and it's good, too!
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