Whole grain bulgur, aromatic spices, and seared zucchini chunks are the core elements of this Middle Eastern-inspired Bulgur Wheat and Zucchini Bowl.
If you have never eaten bulgur wheat before, do give it a try! It is a whole grain wheat, similar to wheat berry, that is often sold in different grades depending on the size of the kernels or how finely or coarsely cracked they are. While some other recipes like tabbouleh and kibbeh require a finer grade of bulgur, you’ll want to use the largest grade you can find for this recipe in order to create a loose, rice-like pilaf.
This recipe need not only be made into bulgur bowls. You can make this pilaf then use it to stuff vegetables like peppers or tomatoes before baking in the oven. Or add some chopped veggies like tomato and cucumber, tear in some mint, and drizzle with lemon and olive oil and you have a nice bulgur wheat salad. Or just play around with the spices in the recipe to make a different flavor profile. I’m thinking some ancho chile powder and lime zest would make for a nice flavor twist!
- 1½ cups bulgur wheat (large size or extra coarse)
- 1 medium/large onion, diced small
- 1½ Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 heaping Tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme or oregano
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 2¼ cups hot water
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon lemon zest
- 4 cups of diced zucchini (around ½ inch dice)
- 1½ Tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- sliced cherry tomatoes
- chopped pistachios (or other nuts/seeds)
- Rinse and drain the bulgur 2-3 times, then cover it with fresh water and soak for 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, add the oil and diced onion to the medium-sized cooking pot and sauté over medium-high heat until nicely caramelized (around 8 minutes).
- Drain the bulgur and set it aside. Add the tomato paste to the caramelized onions and cook for about a minute. Add the cumin, paprika, thyme/oregano, black pepper, and red pepper flakes and sir around for 10 seconds to bloom the spices. Immediately add the drained bulgur wheat, hot water, salt, and lemon zest. Bring it to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- After 5 minutes, the level of liquid in the pot should be at the same level of the bulgur wheat (or even just below it). Reduce heat to the lowest possible setting, cover the pot tightly, and simmer for 24 minutes. Just as with cooking rice, you want to avoid stirring or disturbing the bulgur during this time.
- Make the seared zucchini by heating the oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the diced zucchini and spread the pieces out into a single layer. Sprinkle with the salt and let them sizzle away for a minute or two. Turn and shuffle them with a spatula then put them into a single layer again and sizzle for another minute or two. The aim is to get some nice caramelized color on them---it should take around 6 minutes. Just before they are done, add the minced garlic and cook for another minute more to remove the raw taste from the garlic. Remove the zucchini from the pan and set aside.
- After the cook time for the bulgur has elapsed, remove the lid and turn over/fluff the bulgur with a spatula or spoon. You can serve it immediately or remove it from the heat and put the lid back on to keep it warm.
- Arrange the bowls by adding a few scoops of bulgur, a scoop of seared zucchini, and a sprinkling of tomato and pistachio. A squeeze of lemon is nice, too.