Make this colorful Middle Eastern Bulgur Pilaf

If you are looking to liven up your usual dishes with adventurous ingredients, a well-stocked pantry can provide limitless inspiration. This recipe for a colorful Middle Eastern-style bulgur pilaf gets brightness from fresh mint and parsley and texture from pistachios and golden raisins. And a dressing made with roasted garlic, olive oil and pomegranate molasses — or pomegranate juice simmered to a syrupy state — adds just the right finishing touch.

We usually think of roasting whole heads of garlic, but you can roast individual cloves, too. Place them on a baking sheet and roast them at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Let cloves cool for about 10 minutes. Slice off the tip of each clove and gently squeeze the pulp into a bowl.

Turning wheat into bulgur is an ancient process that originated in the Mediterranean region and has been an integral part of Middle Eastern cuisine for thousands of years. Bulgur is available in four sizes; I use the largest size bulgur grain (#4) I can find, but you can use any size you have on hand or sub in farro or barley. The result is a hearty main dish or festive side that will appeal to vegetarians, too, if you omit the feta and sub in vegetable for chicken stock.

Bulgur Pilaf

Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon butter or ghee

1 shallot, minced

1 cup bulgur

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

1½ cups chicken or vegetable broth

¼ cup pomegranate seeds

½ cup fresh parsley, chopped

¼  cup fresh mint, chopped

¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled

¼ cup golden raisins or other dried fruit

¼ cup shelled, roasted and salted pistachios

½ cup canned chickpeas, drained

Dressing:

3 cloves roasted garlic

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS

Heat the butter in a large saucepan, then add the shallots and saute until translucent.

Add the bulgur wheat and incorporate with the shallots. Add the tomato paste, cumin, ½ teaspoon salt and the broth. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer or 20 minutes or according to package directions (finer bulgur wheat requires less time to cook). When it is done, let cool to lukewarm.

Meanwhile, mix the garlic, pomegranate molasses and olive oil in a small food processor until smooth.

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