Bulgur is often used as a base for salads, tabbouleh and pilafs. For lentils, I used petite French green lentil. These dark green, lightly dappled lentils are prized for their peppery flavor. Unlike other kinds of lentils, these have a firm texture even after cooking. I couldn’t get over how well they cooked. There are so many times my lentils turn mushy; I’m trying to avoid that here. Lentils also help provide a large measure of the daily protein for vegetarians. Together with bulgar, they add crunch and heft to the pilaf. The combination of whole-grain bulgur and lentil makes for a hearty and nutritious side. This may not be a chef dish. Let me tell you, dishes like these will invariably take up a special place on our table.
When it comes to pilaf, rice pilaf is the most popular. There are many versions of pilaf throughout the world. Food historians often date pilafs back as far as about the 5th century BCE, and likely first occurring in the Middle East. Some credit the Persian Empire with the dish’s creation. Numerous dishes have taken off from the earlier pilaf. Jambalaya and paella are variants. Fried rice in Asian cuisines is somewhat similar. Risotto is another dish that can be directly tied to it.
Rice and lentil are two key ingredients often cooked together in dishes like khichdi in India. Less common is combining whole grain, such as bulgur or farro, and lentil in a pilaf. They work, as this recipe has shown.
In the “new world,” ancient grains and heritage beans are new and fresh again. More dishes using ancient grains can be found at IHCC this week. It’s exciting to have the opportunity to explore dishes far and wide, with an amazing array of grains and pulses at our disposal.
|whole-grain bulgur and French green lentil|
|Pilaf: bulgar, green lentil, yellow pepper, red onion, chive and herbs|
One fairly constant aspect of pilaf is that the grain is seasoned by cooking it in broth, with various spices and vegetables added. Usually, any liquids are cooked down or sometimes drained if liquid remains after the grain is fully cooked. This recipe follows the traditional cooking technique. Prior to serving, fresh herbs, lemon zest and lemon juice are added. This is surely a delicious updated version of the traditional pilaf. I sprinkled in some fresh and fragrant Thai basil, parsley and chive to round up the global flavor of the dish. Adding some heat with fresh green chillies is an appealing option I will explore next time around.