Tired of rice? Bored with couscous? Need a non-vegetable side dish to liven up your plate? Try bulgur wheat.
I first had bulgur wheat when I saw a recipe card at the grocery store for bulgur cooked with chickpeas and tomatoes, and served with feta cheese. It was surprisingly cheap, easy to cook, and so yummy, that I didn't understand why it's not a more common side dish in the US.
For many centuries, bulgur (also spelled as bulghur and burghul) has been a common ingredient in Mediterranean, Central Asian, and Middle Eastern dishes. Bulgur comes from several different species of wheat that have been cleaned, parboiled, dried, ground into particles and sifted into distinct sizes. It is quick-cooking and has a light yet nutty flavor. It has more nutrients than rice and couscous, and a better glycemic index than both items.
Many people confuse bulgur with cracked wheat, but it is not; bulgur is pre-cooked. Cracked wheat is not. In some recipes, such as tabbouleh, bulgur can be soaked in liquid without requiring cooking.
Bulgur is commonly used in pilafs, soups, and baked goods.
(Images: Flickr user tianguyen - thanks!)