Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cooking with Bulgur: A Middle Eastern Superfood

“Maria Rainier a Guest blogger that you all are not new with is again today here on my blog. In this article she brings yet another well researched post on Bulgar an middle eastern super-food”.

Indian and many other types of Middle Eastern cuisine are consistently becoming more popular in Western countries like Canada and the U.S. Not only are the flavors bold and fresh, but these foods are often several times healthier than typical American fare, especially the greasy specimens that grace the menu boards of fast food restaurants. It’s a simple fact that you feel better when you eat better, and Middle Eastern food can offer many of the nutrients needed by your body while contributing fewer unhealthy ingredients.

To start adding more Middle Eastern health foods to your diet, you can start with bulgur, which is a whole grain that can replace rice, pasta, and even oatmeal as a hot morning cereal. Once mastered, the ability to cook with bulgur can get you on your way to eating a more nutritional variety of foods inspired by the Middle Eastern perspective on health and diet. To learn more about bulgur, you can browse these frequently asked questions so you’ll know where to find bulgur on your next grocery shopping trip and how to use it when you get home.

What is Bulgur?
If you clean and parboil whole wheat, then dry it, crush it, and sift it, you’ll have bulgur. Bulgur has a light, nutty flavor and comes in four different grinds, or sizes, in the U.S. and Canada: fine, medium, course, and extra course. However, you can also purchase and use it as whole kernels. Bulgur cooks very quickly and, if you soak it in water or broth, it’s ready to use in a healthy dish without being cooked. You can use it to replace rice or cous cous, and you’ll be glad you did – bulgur has a much higher nutritional value with more vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber than rice. With a lower glycemic index, it can also help you lower your carb intake and blood sugar levels.

What are the Medicinal Properties of Bulgur?
Bulgur is very beneficial to the digestive system and can also help to prevent cancer, heart disease, diverticular disease (intestinal inflammation), and constipation. It contains the organic compound ferulic acid, which is a powerful antioxidant found in plant cell wall components. Ferulic acid attacks free radicals, which are often responsible for the development of cancer, accelerated aging of the body’s cells, and DNA damage. This acid has also been found to directly prevent liver and breast cancer tumors in animal studies.

Where Can I Find It?
There are several different options when it comes to finding and purchasing bulgur. You can order it online from a company like Sunnyland Mills, look for it at a farming co-op or farmer’s market, or buy it from a health or specialty food store. You can even find Bob’s Red Mill bulgur at Wal-Mart locations that offer groceries, and you can look for Arrowhead Mills bulgur at Whole Foods and other more mainstream vendors. If you have a local Middle Eastern market, this is probably the best place to find bulgur.

What Can I Do with It?
Use coarse bulgur to replace rice or cous cous; a medium grind for fillings, stuffings, and cereals; and a fine grind to make tabbouleh. To cook your bulgur, you can simply simmer it for about 15 minutes, let it stand for another 10, then fluff it with a fork and use it as a stand-alone dish or as a pre-cooked ingredient. Once you’ve cooked the bulgur, it triples in volume, so don’t worry that you won’t have enough. If you’d like to make a cold salad with your bulgur, it’s best to cook it by pouring boiling water (a 3:1 ratio of water to bulgur) over it, then leaving it to soak for 30-40 minutes. Again, drain the water away and fluff with a fork to obtain the best consistency.

You can make a wonderful tabbouleh using this soaking method to cook your bulgur. Simply add olive oil, lemon juice, chopped fresh parsley and mint, salt and pepper, and a mixture of chopped cucumber, tomatoes, and green onions. The proportions depend on your taste, but parsley tends to dominate this fresh and flavorful dish. Freshly ground black pepper is best in this salad, so make sure that you have your peppercorns and grinder at the ready. Your tabbouleh should be refrigerated for at least one hour before serving.

Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, researching various http://www.onlinedegrees.org/">online degree< programs and blogging about student life. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

Posted by Sudeep

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