Bulgar wheat, or burgul as it’s known in the Middle East, begins as husked wheat grains. Farmers – or more likely, their wives – boil the grains for one hour, then dry them. The processed wheat grains are then take to the local mill for grinding into fine, medium, and coarse-sized particles.
Each burgul quality has its particular uses in cooking. Fine-ground burgul is used in tabouleh, for a light background to salad vegetables; medium-grind for dishes like kubbeh, and the coarse grind for hearty dishes such as majadra (the burgul substituting rice) or shulbatto. We have many dishes that feature burgul, including this luscious recipe for bulgur balls in tomato sauce.
Move over tabuleh, meet shulbatto
Shulbatto is a dish known around the Arabic culinary world, but hasn’t been made as popular to Westerners as, for example, tabuleh. This version comes from the Druze villages of northern Israel and Syria, via the Galileat culinary workshop organization..
It’s important to use coarse-grind bulgur wheat, as finer grades will cook up mushy.
Shulbatto, A Druze Bulgur Pilaf
Serves 4 generously.
1 large onion
3 ripe tomatoes, hand-grated whole, or peeled and blended – may use 1 cup canned chopped tomatoes instead.
1 medium eggplant
1 medium red bell pepper, or 1/2 cup roasted red peppers from a jar
OPTIONAL: 1 hot red pepper, for those who like it spicy
1 cup room-temperature water
1 cup coarse-grind bulgur wheat
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon baharat spice (found in Middle-Eastern shops, or make your own from Karin’s baharat recipe)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup olive oil
How to make Shulbatto
Chop the zucchinis, onion, eggplant, bell pepper and optional hot pepper into medium cubes.
Put the onions in a large saucepan and cover them with the olive oil.
Sauté the onions over high heat, until transparent.
Add the eggplant. Sauté 10 minutes, until it begins to soften.
Add the zucchinis, bell pepper and optional hot pepper to the pot. Cook and stir another 15 minutes, until everything is cooked through but not mushy.
Add the grated tomatoes, with their juice, plus one cup of water.
Cover the pan and bring to a simmer. Continue simmering 5 minutes.
Pour the bulgur and spices into the pot, stirring to distribute.
Reduce the heat to low and cook 10 minutes longer.
Taste to adjust seasoning.
Remove from the heat, but let the dish rest, covered, about 5 minutes.
Serve with a leafy salad, halves of hard-boiled eggs, and a dish of olives.
Photo via Pixabay.