This Middle Eastern staple sounds more exotic than it is; bulgur is what's left after wheat kernels have been steamed, dried, and crushed. This cereal grain has been a food staple for years because it offers an inexpensive source of low-fat protein, making it a wonderfully nutritious addition to your low-calorie meal plan.
High in fiber and protein, and low in fat and calories, bulgur is another food that offers bulk and nutrients to fill you up without adding pounds. One thing to keep in mind, a cup of bulgur has fewer calories, less fat, and more than twice the fiber of brown rice.
Bulgur doesn't lose much from its minimal processing; it remains high in protein and minerals. That means it's an ideal foundation for meals, allowing you to skip higher-fat protein sources, like most meats.
Bulgur is also a standout in terms of its fiber content, just like whole wheat, and can help keep your digestive tract healthy as a result. The insoluble fiber it contains absorbs water, promoting faster elimination of waste, which prevents the formation of an environment that promotes the development of carcinogens.
Selection and Storage
You may need to visit a health-food store to find bulgur. It's available in three grinds -- coarse, medium, and fine. Coarse bulgur is used to make pilaf or stuffing. Medium-grind bulgur is used in cereals. The finest grind of bulgur is suited to the popular cold Middle Eastern salad called tabbouleh. Store bulgur in a screw-top glass jar in the refrigerator; it will keep for months.
Preparation and Serving Tips
Because bulgur is already partially cooked, little time is needed for preparation: Combine a half cup of bulgur with one cup of liquid and simmer for 15 minutes. Let stand for another ten minutes. Fluff with a fork. It triples in volume. For cold salads, soak bulgur before using: Pour boiling water over bulgur, in a three-to-one ratio. Soak for 30 to 40 minutes. Drain away excess water. If you like your bulgur chewier, let it sit longer to absorb more water. Bulgur is used like rice in Mediterranean countries. In fact, you can use bulgur in place of rice in most recipes. Bulgur lends its nutty flavor to whatever it is combined with, allowing you to use it as a main ingredient, thus cutting back on higher-calorie foods.
Another health bonus, bulgur has more fiber than oats, buckwheat, or corn. Plus, its quick cooking time and mild flavor make it ideal for those new to whole grain cooking. Its ability to fill you up with few calories is great for weight-loss dieters.
©Publications International, Ltd.