Burghul Mufalfal with Tomatoes
(A break from the vacation posts. Trust me, they're not done yet... we haven't even shown you Madrid, let alone Fes!)
I first bought burghul because I wanted to replicate Exotic Bakeries' burghul* and lentil mujaddara. Exotic Bakeries is one of the best Middle Eastern restaurants in Ann Arbor. I say "one of" because we have several very good ones, and I allow for the fact that different ones excel at different dishes. But Exotic Bakeries is perhaps my favorite. (Try their red pepper kibbe. Absolutely fabulous! And the ajjeh warmed and served with a thin layer of garlic sauce. Mmmm...)
They have the usual mujaddara made of rice and lentils, but they also carry a burghul and lentil variant. I was curious one day, so I ordered it. I was asked if I really I wanted the burghul one, because (apparently) it was a dish primarily ordered by their Middle Eastern customers. Well, I loved it... so much that I wanted to make it at home, so I went and bought whole wheat burghul (instead of the pale, de-branned type thanks to the advice of one of the customers of Mediterranean Market) and tried my hand at making burghul and lentils mujaddara.
So, what does Exotic Bakeries have to do with Burghul Mufalfal? Not much, except that I have yet to satisfactorily recreate their burghul and lentil mujaddara, which leaves me with a container of burghul and a desire to cook with it. While skimming through my Middle Eastern cookbooks I found this recipe in From the Land of Figs and Olives where burghul is cooked with onions and a touch of beef, and simply spiced with salt and pepper.
The burghul is definitely the star of this dish, with the beef and onions serving to enhance its nutty flavor. This is a mild dish. It has to be savored slowly to allow the burghul's flavor to come forward. And there needs to be enough salt to bring out the beef and burghul, otherwise it risks being bland. People who know me (and Joe) know that we tend towards spicy hot and richly-spiced dishes, but I also have a fondness for simply flavored dishes. This one did not disappoint. (Note: though it takes nearly an hour to make, 45 minutes of that is cooking time where you're basically leaving the dish alone, allowing plenty of time to prepare a side salad and clean the kitchen before dinner is served.)
*burghul is also known as "bulgur"
From the Land of Figs and Olives
serves 4 to 6
4 Tbs cooking oil
1/2 lb beef, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
4 medium onions, finely diced
1 cup coarse burghul, rinsed
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
In a frying pan, heat the oil and sauté the meat for 5 minutes. Add the onions and continue cooking, stirring from time to time, until the onions turn light brown. Stir in the burghul and stir-fry for about 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper and water. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and simmer for about 30 minutes, until all the water is absorbed. Put a close-fitting lid on the pan and turn off the heat. Let stand for about 15 minutes before serving.