Great little recipe has the smallest ingredient list possible and big on everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. That means five ingredients or less — not including water, salt, black pepper, and some fats (like oil and butter), because we’re assuming you’ve covered them. Inspired by the column, the Big little recipes recipe book is available now.
Yes, I have an Instant Pot. It cooks rice, beans and polenta faster than I ever could on the stove. But you know why I never need it? Bulgur.
Made from pre-cooked, dried, and ground wheat kernels, bulgur cooks up in less time than it takes to pick something to watch on Netflix (I’ll save you the trouble – “Bridgerton”). In fact, depending on the grind, it may not need to be cooked at all. Thin bulgur can simply soak in hot water, like a bath.
“Think of bulgur as the old version of ‘instant rice,'” writes Abra Berens in “Grist.”
This is why you will find bulgur in a multitude of traditional dishes. In kishk, it ferments quietly with yogurt, becoming what Reem Assil calls, in her cookbook “Arabiyya”, “the Swiss army knife of preserved Arab foods”. In ezogelin çorbasi, aka Turkish bride’s soup, it simmers with pink lentils and hot paprika. And in tabbouleh, it goes with lots of parsley – or a little parsley, depending on who you ask.
As Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi share “Jerusalem,” “The Lebanese use the least amount of bulgur, just a tiny amount of the grains sprinkled sparingly in the parsley. The Palestinians add a bit more.”
Either way, the combination of bulgur with parsley, plus cucumber and lemon is hard to beat: nutty and shiny, tender and crunchy, grounding and invigorating, all rolled into one. And so this recipe is following suit. These are mainly bulgur, parsley, cucumber and lemon. But the similarities end there.
Medium bulgur is steamed stuffed, then mashed with salted feta cheese. These two ingredients turn effortlessly into patties, which turn effortlessly into crispy, fudgy donuts. From a distance, they almost look like sausage patties. And thanks to a touch of feta brine added to the water the bulgur is cooked in, they evoke a similar umami-ness. (Psst: Use leftover feta brine for this martini.)
Tucked next to a huge salad – which doesn’t include a single leaf of lettuce, and no, I’m not apologizing – it’s a dinner to make when you don’t want to make dinner at all. Small effort, big reward.
Recipe: Bulgur-Feta Fritters with Lemon Parsley Salad