The things I cook tend to fall into clear cut categories- pasta, salad, fish, chicken, soup, stir-fry, veggies, and so forth. It’s relatively rare that something new comes along that is not so easily labelled, that doesn’t fall into one of the distinct types of dinner I generally choose to make. This simple little recipe from my new big green book (Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, not to be confused the the big yellow classic, Bittman’s How to Cook Everything) defies my typical categories. Trying to describe it briefly to a friend, I compared it to sort of a soft polenta with leeks swirled through. But that ignores its wheatiness, the fact that it’s more grainy and textured than the fine corn mush of most polenta. It’s also creamier than most polenta, the added whole milk (in my case) or cream a prominent note in the dish.
The first night I served it, alongside Kalyn’s balsamic-glazed chicken breasts, it was good. It was right off of the stove and was still a little soupy, but had the calming effect of warm, simple comfort food. The leek and onion definitely stood out, but the effect was mellow and soothing, not brash or jarring. Last night, I had it again as leftovers, reheated for a minute in the microwave and I have to say that it was even better. With all of the liquid absorbed and the flavors given a chance to meld a bit more, it was all I could do not to eat the rest of the leftovers in their entirity. With virtually no prep time (aside from washing and cutting those pesky leeks), this refined comfort food is perfect for the lingering days of winter and is a great, healthy weekday staple.
Creamed bulgur with leeks (serves 4-6)
3 tbsp butter or extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 medium or 1 large leek, well washed and chopped thin
1 cup fine or medium grind bulgur
1 cup cream, half-and-half, or whole milk
2 cups vegetable (or chicken) stock or water
salt and freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated nutmeg to taste
1. Put the butter/oil in a pot over medium heat. When the butter is melted or the oil is hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5 minutes.
2. Add the leeks, stir until soft, about 3 minutes, then add the remaining ingredients. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the hear and let sit until the bulgur is tender, about 15 minutes. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve hot. Can be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before reheating.