One thing about temporary living is that it makes me hesitant to buy much in the way of food products that are not highly multifunctional or will not be consumed fairly quickly. I hate throwing things away; when we left The Oldest City in the World (our previous residence) and came to Hillside (our current city), I smuggled along over a dozen plastic baggies of spices, a plastic tub of red lentils, and two partially-used bags of bulgur and semolina. Oh, and the obvious: tea, coffee, and sugar, because in what are already stressful situations like moving, it is best not to upset the body with unnecessary caffeine withdrawals.
Thus, meals that require few ingredients while still meeting my Ideals of Eating (another post for another day) are key. This lovely vegetarian dish fits the bill perfectly and is easy to make in large batches. Below is the recipe, as found in The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Ms. Roden, with notes about my modifications and suggestions in italics.
Bulgur with Cheese and Eggplants
- 1 eggplant, weighing about ¾ pound, cut into 1-inch cubes (If you wanted to up the vegetable intake, I think zucchini and green or red peppers would be nice additions)
- 1 ½ large onions, sliced
- Vegetable oil
- 2 cups coarse-ground bulgur, washed in cold water and drained
- 3 ¼ cups boiling water or chicken stock
- 7-9 ounces halumi cheese, cubed (I couldn’t find halumi, so used kashkaval instead; I think mozzarella would also work fine)
Sprinkle the eggplant generously with salt and leave in a colander for ½ hour to degorge its juices. Then rinse, and dry with paper towels.
Fry the onions in 2 tablespoons oil till golden. Add the bulgur and stir. Pour in the boiling water or stock, season with salt and pepper (I also added about 2 teaspoons allspice), and stir well, then cook on very low heat, with the lid on, for about 15 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed and the bulgur is tender.
Fry the cubed eggplant briefly in hot oil, turning the cubes so that they are lightly colored all over. Lift out, and drain on paper towels. (I am terrible at frying food—see the picture below for what happened to half my eggplant cubes. If you had a functional oven and didn’t mind the heat, I think roasting would be a satisfactory substitution for cooking the eggplant and whatever other vegetables you might choose to include.)
Stir 4 tablespoons oil into the bulgur. (I didn’t add any extra oil; I think it would make the dish too greasy.) Add the cheese and the eggplant and gently fold them in. Heat through with the lid on until the cheese is soft. Serve very hot.
For dessert? Something cold, of course, and bonus points if it comes in groovy flowered glasses 🙂