Who doesn't love a good bulgur salad? Tossed with diced tomatoes and minced parsley, it shows up as tabbouleh on your summer tables, gets stuffed into pita with falafel, and is an all-around Middle Eastern workhorse. But did you know that an equally delicious winter version exists? One that holds its ground against hummus and baba ghannoush at a Levant-themed spread, and can just as easily transform itself into an exotic supper side dish? Without further ado, let me present it to you.
Courtesy of the eminent Claudia Roden (she of Arabesque and The Book of Jewish Food), this salad is the perfect example of a dish whose sum is greater than its parts. You see, the bulk of the salad is just made up of soaked bulgur, chopped parsley and toasted nuts (I used pecans instead of walnuts, because their fragrance totally bewitches me. Plus, walnuts make my mouth feel funny). But then you mix it with a kitchen-sink dressing that catapults this humble dish into the stratosphere.
Pomegranate molasses (use restraint! Or you'll regret it), olive oil, four different spices, tomato paste, lemon juice: the dressing is a symphony of flavors that bloom and develop with every dressing of the salad. It's a slow process as the bulgur soaks up each dose of dressing like a sponge. But it's worth waiting for. Because in the end you find yourself with an ochre-tinged pile of fluffy bulgur that is exotically perfumed, toasty and spicy and fragrant with a medley of flavors that make it very, very difficult to stop eating.
And all of this is done without turning on the stove. Well, you have to use the oven to toast the nuts, but that's barely even considered cooking, right?
Bulgur Salad with Pomegranate Dressing and Toasted Nuts
Makes 8 to 10 servings
2 3/4 cups bulgur, preferable coarse-ground
3/4 cup olive oil
6 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (I used only 3)
Juice of 2 lemons
6 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste
2 cups walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped and toasted
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1. Put bulgur in a large bowl and cover with cold, lightly salted water. Let soak until tender, from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on coarseness of bulgur. Drain in a sieve, firmly pressing out excess water, and transfer to a serving bowl.
2. Whisk olive oil with pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, tomato paste and spices. Add salt and pepper and taste; mixture should be pleasingly tangy. Add more pomegranate molasses and lemon juice as needed.
3. Pour half the dressing over bulgur and mix well. Set aside to absorb for 10 minutes. Taste for salt, adding more if needed. Add half the remaining dressing, all the nuts and parsley, and mix well. Before serving, taste again and add more dressing as needed.