The last of our six-part series on quick-cooking whole grains starts with bulgur, which itself is created by cooking whole kernels of wheat in water. In her "Whole Grains for Busy People" (Clarkson Potter, 2009), cookbook author Lorna Sass explains that the kernels are dried and ground into various sizes, then sifted to separate them by texture into coarse and fine grinds.
This dish calls for the coarse kind; Sass recommends using bulgur that is a rich, caramel-brown color, because lighter-colored bulgur may have been prepared from refined wheat that is stripped of its bran. Bulgur, she says, is not the same thing as cracked wheat, which is not precooked. She likes the coarse bulgur made by Goya and Sunnyland Mills; we used Bob's Red Mill Whole Grain Bulgur Wheat, which is widely available.
Canned beets (we used 365 brand from Whole Foods Market), their liquid and curry powder create a gorgeous red pilaf that would make a nice side dish on its own. But we've added ground lamb and pine nuts to bump this up to a main course.
Serve with warm nan and a steamed green vegetable.
- 2 tablespoons peanut or safflower oil
- 2 15-ounce cans sliced beets (juice reserved)
- 1 cup water
- 1 medium onion
- 1 1/4 cups coarse bulgur (see headnote)
- 2 tablespoons mild curry powder
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts
- 1 pound lean ground lamb
- Leaves from 4 stems flat-leaf parsley
- Juice from 1 lime (optional)
- Kosher salt (optional)
Heat the oil in a heavy, medium Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
Drain the beets through a colander so the cans' liquid is caught in a 2-cup measure. Pour out all but 1 cup of the beet liquid, then add the water to make 2 cups.
Cut the onion into 1/4-inch dice (to yield about 1 cup). Add to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes, until lightly browned. Add the bulgur and curry powder; cook, stirring continuously, for 2 minutes, until the bulgur is fragrant and evenly coated.
Add the tomato paste and cook for 30 seconds, then carefully add the beet-water mixture (an initial hit of steam will arise). Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed; you can check the liquid reduction once or twice and adjust the heat as needed.
Turn off the heat. Let the bulgur sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.
While the bulgur is cooking, heat a (dry) medium skillet over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and toast them, stirring often, for about 3 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer to a small bowl.
Grease the skillet with nonstick cooking oil spray, return it to the stove top and increase the heat to medium-high. Add the ground lamb and cook, stirring to break up clumps, for 6 to 8 minutes, until no trace of pink remains. Remove from the heat and drain any fat from the skillet.
Finely chop the parsley.
Uncover the bulgur and add the beets, cooked lamb and pine nuts; toss to mix well. Divide among individual plates and sprinkle each portion with the parsley. If desired, squeeze a little lime juice on each portion; taste and add a pinch of salt if needed. Serve immediately.
From Lorna Sass.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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