If you only think of tabbouleh as a depressing selection from the hippie co-op deli case, this revved-up Turkish version, packed with savory tomato and spiked with both pomegranate arils and pomegranate molasses, might just change your mind about the utility of bulgur.
If you’ve never tried bulgur (plain ground wheat, basically), it can best be described as a more texturally satisfying, higher-protein version of couscous, and is in fact so filling that one dry cup’s worth will completely stuff three people. Some form of Turkish tabbouleh, or kisir, is often on a mezze platter if you ever go to a Middle Eastern restaurant, but I love this version best, adapted from “Plenty,” by Yotam Ottololenghi.
As below, this makes a filling dinner for 3.
• Arils of 1 pomegranate (it may seem like an impractical amount, but you’ll use most of them): $3
• 1 cup uncooked medium-grain bulgur: 82 cents
• 1 T lemon juice: 10 cents
• 2 T tomato paste: 10 cents
• 1 tsp ground cumin: 1 cent
• 1 onion, finely chopped: 25 cents
• 3 T olive oil: 18 cents
• 4 small plum tomatoes, chopped: 50 cents
• 1 1/2 tsp pomegranate molasses (cheating! this was a gift)*: $0
• 6 T chopped parsley (garden): $0
• 3 green onions, chopped (our garden ones finally died): 20 cents
• 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed: 6 cents
• Handful of mint leaves (garden): $0
• Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste: 2 cents
• Biggest leaves from the outside of a head of romaine lettuce, washed and dried: 25 cents
TOTAL: $5.49/3 = $1.83/serving
*I have bought it myself before, and it’s only about $4 or so, which is cheaper than making it yourself (which I have also done). You’ll more than likely have to go to an ethnic market to find it, but it does pop up odd places; I once found it for sale at a gas station mini-mart. In terms of other uses, it’s great on pulled pork and lamb, for starters.
Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan or wide pot (one that has a lid, because you’ll need it later) over medium heat; add onions and cook until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic, stir for about 30 seconds, then add the tomato paste, stirring for about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cumin; simmer for another 4 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Add 3/4 cup water and bring the mixture to a boil; remove from the heat and stir in the bulgur. Add the lemon juice, green onions, parsley and pomegranate molasses.
Stir well, replace the lid, and let sit until almost room temperature; about 20-30 minutes. When the bulgur is tender, feel free to take the lid off to cool it down. At this point mix in some of the pomegranate arils. Serve on lettuce leaves, sprinkled with more arils. Don’t be shy about using them.
I didn’t use the whole pomegranate, but I used way more than I expected to—I normally don’t like the crunch of the seeds, but you don’t notice it in the bulgur, and each bite really benefits from the little bursts of sweetness.
Serve on the lettuce leaves; they’re great as wraps.