This week I found myself with a funny challenge in my refrigerator: about 10 cups of leftover cooked bulgur. (The “how” isn’t that interesting—I overdid it preparing for a demonstration at the wonderful Pine Island Farmers Market over the weekend.) I was at a loss. What would you do with this much bulgur? That’d be a lot of tabbouleh to eat, let alone my Bulgur Salad with Kale and Feta, which was its original purpose.
In my quest to use it up (I’m still not done), I tried a few things: I sautéed some scallions, ginger, and garlic in olive oil, then added broccoli and kale and bulgur for something of a bulgur pilaf. I made a quick sauce from garlic, harissa, olive oil, and crushed tomatoes and stirred in the bulgur in the end, and then finished it off with a plop of yogurt and a drizzle of bright green olive oil. Then the other morning I made a twist on halwa—I stirred the bulgur into a bit of browned butter (ghee would have been more appropriate) and added some warm spices and white raisins and served it for breakfast—per Elaine S.’s recommendation on Twitter. All of these were great, but they didn’t put much of a dent in my supply. I needed to get creative.
Truthfully, I had something in mind all along, but I was hesitant attempt it because I didn’t want to fail. It was a twist on Deborah Madison’s Quinoa Muffins from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Those muffins are moist and tender, a little bit crunchy, and have a dark sweetness from brown sugar. And utilizing the standard quick bread method, where you simply fold wet and dry ingredients together and bake, they’re almost easy enough to make to-order on a weekend morning. Would they work with bulgur? And what about making it as a bread—and in a skillet?
I had to tinker a bit, but what I ultimately arrived at is a winner. Unlike quinoa, bulgur doesn’t have much of a crunch—it’s defining trait, here at least, is its chew. But the little chewy nuggets are wonderful in this skillet bread, which is gently aromatic, thanks to cardamom and nutmeg and clove, and sweet, but not so sweet that you can’t eat it for breakfast. But what I might like most is the finished texture: moist and structured, like a muffin, not quite as delicate as a cake . . . It’s a quick bread, of course. It makes for an excellent addition to a breakfast spread. I’m also thinking that it’d be a good substitute, at some meals, for corn bread, though in that case I might scale back a tablespoon or two on the sugar. And if you need me, I’ll be in my kitchen, dreaming up some more new ways to work through that bulgur. Suggestions are very welcome.
Bulgur Skillet Bread
I recommend going with the coarsest bulgur grain you can find, rather than the finer grains that turn more into cereal when reconstituted. And freshly ground cardamom seeds will make a big difference here. Also, when I made this my brown sugar was a little hard—I broke it up as best I could, but it still had a few little beads in it. This worked to my advantage. Those beads left behind sweet, caramel-ey little pools of melted brown sugar throughout the cake, and made for the best bites.
Serves 10 or so
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (preferably freshly ground)
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves
1/2 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 cups plain yogurt (preferably Greek style, and I used full-fat, without remorse)
1-1/2 cups cooled, cooked bulgur (I’d recommend medium or coarse grind)*
1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Place a 10-inch skillet (at least 1-3/4 inches deep) over a low heat and add the butter. Heat, swirling periodically, until the butter is almost fully melted, then remove from the heat.
2. Whisk together the flours, salt, baking soda, and spices in a mixing bowl.
3. In another bowl, beat the eggs, sugar. Then pour in the butter from the skillet—don’t use a spatula to scrape it all out, what’s left in the pan will grease it—and whisk to incorporate. Stir in the yogurt, and then fold in the cooked bulgur. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, stirring until just combined.
4. If the residual butter seems to have pooled in only one part of the skillet, use a brush to redistribute it so that it’s uniformly greased. Transfer the batter to the skillet, which may still be warm, and spread evenly.
5. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until puffed up, the center springs back to the touch, and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve warm or room temperature. Wrapped loosely in parchment and then stored in an airtight container, it’ll keep for 2 or 3 days, but it’s best eaten on the same day it’s made.
* To cook bulgur, combine 1 part bulgur with 2 parts water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 15 minutes. There should be little air-bubble tunnels all over the surface and no water pooling in the bottom of the pan. If the bulgur tastes done but still seems wet, transfer it to a tea-towel-lined colander and let stand for 20 or 30 minutes to dry out a bit.