It’s January. The holidays, with their fuss and excess, are over. Thoughts turn, with some relief, to New Year’s resolutions: specifically, to diet and exercise. I don’t really like New Year’s resolutions, and I specifically am not a fan of diets – America’s favorite resolution – which I think set us all up for endless failure. (Whoops, sorry! Off the soapbox now.)
But I love this time of year. I may not make specific “resolutions” about it anymore, but I enjoy the yearly return to eating healthy foods. My approach is addition, not subtraction. I don’t believe in blanket bans on things, mostly because they don’t work for me. I can eat vegetarian food for weeks and not miss meat – until I decide to just go ahead and go vegetarian, at which point I will instantly crave a cheeseburger so badly I think I’ll die without it. So I focus on adding things: more veggies, more whole grains, more beans.
This recipe came from adding more whole grains to my breakfast routine. I wanted something that was not oatmeal, for a change, and found on the web several takes on bulgur for breakfast. I’d never heard of such a thing, but I thought I’d give it a whirl. And I’m glad I did.
Frankly, I was stunned by how delicious this was – so good that bulgur has instantly rocketed to the top of my favorite ingredients list. The grain itself has a satisfying nubbly texture with a bit of chew, but at the same time a certain delicacy, like couscous. (I tried a similar preparation with quinoa, but it was awful.) The dairy adds creaminess, though if you’re vegan or just out of milk you could certainly replace it with water or soy milk.
The flavors here really sing. They are still the flavors of winter – citrus and spice – but lifted by the sunny sweetness of apricots to a summery glow. The bulgur really soaks them up, too. Feel free to play with the spices; you probably should keep the cinnamon, but any number of sweet spices could add to or replace the cardamom.
Best of all, this luscious, satisfying breakfast is a snap to make! Throw it all in the pot, simmer briefly, then let it rest. Plenty of time to make coffee or tea, set the table, or warm your toes by the fireplace (or the furnace register).
Spiced Breakfast Bulgur with Winter Fruit
Serves: 4 Time: 25 minutes Hands-on: 10 minutes
3 cups water
2/3 cup half-and-half or milk
2/3 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
2 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1/4 teaspoon almond extract or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup bulgur wheat (medium size – see Ingredient Note)
Nuts, dried fruit, brown sugar, cream, etc for serving
Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest (the outer covering of the rind, with as little white pith as possible) from the orange in large strips. Set aside the rest of the orange for another use.
Combine orange zest with all other ingredients except bulgur in a medium saucepan with a lid. Bring to a boil. Stir in bulgur; return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 8 minutes. (If the porridge develops a curdled-looking layer on top while boiling, don’t worry; it will disappear when everything comes together at the end.) Cover and remove from heat. Let steam for 10 minutes while you prepare the table and the toppings. Remove, stir well, and and discard orange zest. Spoon into bowls and serve warm, with small dishes of toppings so each diner can customize.
*Ingredient Note: Bulgur, parboiled and lightly ground wheat kernels, comes in several sizes. If you have a choice, buy medium for this. Medium is the most common size, so if you aren’t given a choice, you probably have the right kind.