Summer 2011 CSANews Issue 79  |  Posted date : Jul 08, 2011.Back to list

I've been revelling in the beauty of bulgur of late. Bulgur is unappreciated and underrated and spelled in a variety of ways, such as bulgar, bulghur, burghul and arisah. This quick-cooking form of whole wheat is made from different wheat species and is cleaned, parboiled and dried.

It is an ingredient that has been used in Mediterranean and Indian dishes for thousands of years. In 2800 B.C. China, emperor Shen Nung declared bulgur to be one of the five top sacred crops. Roman civilizations record eating dried, cooked wheat as early as 1000 B.C.

Bulgur is easy to prepare and offers a subtle nutty flavour. But it quickly absorbs all of the flavours with which it is cooked and offers a dense, chewy and satisfying texture.

Often confused with cracked wheat, bulgur is parboiled or precooked.
I was first introduced to bulgur during my teen years. My best friend is Armenian and her mother incorporated bulgur into many of their Middle Eastern dishes. I absolutely love kibbeh, a kind of Armenian, deep-fried croquette made of bulgur and ground meat.

It is produced in different grinds, such as fine, coarse or extra-coarse. The desired grind depends on how you intend to utilize this grain in your dish. The fine grind is used in cold salads, such as tabbouleh and couscous. Coarse grinds are used for foods such as kibbeh.

Bulgur can replace white or brown rice in recipes. It has twice the fibre, less fat and fewer calories than brown rice. It also offers excellent nutritional value. It is a whole grain and the kernel maintains its nutritional value during the cooking process. It is rich in vitamin B, iron, phosphorous and manganese.

Because bulgur takes on the flavours of its associated ingredients, it can be partnered with both white and red wines. If used in making tabbouleh with lemon overtones, choose a crisp, dry, white wine as a match. Heavier, deep-fried kibbeh can be partnered with a medium-bodied red such as shiraz.

I recently created a portobello mushroom burger using bulgur. This recipe provided a way for me to enjoy the ritual of eating a burger without consuming more beef (I already have enough beef in my diet). If you cannot see yourself moving this far into a vegetarian diet, cut back on the bulgur by half and add lean ground turkey or chicken. 

This burger can be paired with white or red wine, depending on the cheese topping added. The recipe below calls for blue cheese. So pair this portobello mushroom burger with a big, robust red, such as Cabernet Sauvignon.

Portobello Mushroom Burgers with Blue Cheese

Makes 6 large burgers

These burgers taste far better when made 24 to 48 hours in advance. The bulgur soaks up all of the liquid in the burgers, giving them a dense, chewy texture - more like beef.
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 2 cups bulgur (bulk store)
  • 6 to 8 large portobello mushrooms
  • 2 to 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
In a pot, bring four cups of water to a boil. When it begins to boil, remove pot from burner.  Add bulgur. Cover pot and let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, mince mushrooms and garlic. Transfer into a pan with 1/4 cup of water. Saute mushrooms until all water is evaporated and mixture is getting dry.

Transfer bulgur and sauteed mushrooms into a bowl. Add eggs and bread crumbs. Mix well together.

Make patties. Place patties on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Cover burgers with another piece of parchment. Put into the refrigerator for two to four hours.

Heat inside grill with vegetable oil. Fry patties until golden on the outside. Melt 
blue cheese on the burgers. Serve hot on a multigrain bun with favourite toppings.