Not counting those elusive pasta bowls, do you find that you still have more bowls, in various shapes and sizes, than plates? Due to the way our meals are often designed, we go through our bowls much quicker and would benefit from an even higher bowl-to-plate ratio.
A typical weeknight dinner in our house is a one-bowl meal; a whole meal that is contained in one bowl, whether it is in the form of a grain salad, a stew or soup over rice like last week's recipe, noodle bowls, or curries. One-bowl meals mean ease and streamlined-comfort to me, but don't think flavor takes the back seat.
This Middle Eastern bulgur bowl is another one-bowl meal, and the layered dimensions of flavors here are mind-boggling. It was inspired by a flatbread wrap I had this summer at Stockholm's Hotorgshallen food market where roasted red pepper and black olive spreads shared space on flatbread with halloumi and bulgur. The bowl is a deconstructed interpretation where I have tried to keep the key components while simplifying the ingredient list and preparation so it can be pulled together just as easily on a weeknight as on a weekend. I am using bulgur because it is more traditional, but for a grain or gluten-free version, this would be equally delicious with quinoa or brown rice. Overall, I think this bowl gives a pretty good wink and a nudge to the wrap I had this summer, and I hope you enjoy it as well.
If you're looking for a vegetarian-friendly casual party menu idea that will appeal to a group with varied tastes, consider having a Bowl Bar so everyone can make their own bowl. Line up the components of the bowl; bulgur salad, olives, red pepper sauce, broccoli, avocado, and remaining toppings so everyone can pick and choose what goes into their bowl. You could also add some additional protein components like roasted chickpeas or chicken for people who want to bulk up their bowl even more.
Don't let the length of the recipe make you feel it is too complicated. My instructions are a bit wordy this time and each component is organized as it's own recipe, thus taking up more space. But this whole meal can come together in 30 minutes or less, given the eggplant is pre-roasted.
Middle Eastern Bulgur Bowls
Notes: The roasted red pepper sauce can be made ahead. See notes in recipe below.
- Bulgur salad
- Roasted red pepper sauce
- 1 medium head of broccoli, chopped and steamed or roasted
- Spoon bulgur into individual bowls, layer over roasted red pepper sauce, and finish with toppings.
- Place cooked broccoli on the side.
Notes: I am using bulgur to keep it traditional, but for a grain or gluten-free version, this would be equally delicious with quinoa or brown rice (especially the slightly sticky and nutty short-grain variety).
- 1 1/2 cups course bulgur, cooked according to package directions
- 1 1/2 tsp. za'atar (optional)
- 1 1/4 tsp. cumin
- Juice from 1/2-1 whole juicy lemon
- 2 1/2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. honey
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- Several grinds black pepper
- In the bottom of a medium mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients except for the bulgur. If not using za'atar, add a bit more lemon.
- Stir bulgur into dressing to coat. Taste, and adjust for seasoning. Set aside.
Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Notes: Jarred roasted red peppers work great here. Drain and dab on a paper towel to remove some of the liquid. Eggplant and garlic can be roasted in advance, prepped (per instructions below), and stored in the fridge for 1-2 days. Additionally, the entire sauce can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored in the fridge. Just bring to room temperature before serving.
- 1 medium eggplant
- 1 cove of garlic, with skin on
- 5-6 roasted red peppers (depending on size)
- 3/4 cup walnuts, toasted
- 2 1/4 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1/4 tsp. ground chili (cayenne)
- 2 1/2 tsp. pomegranate molasses (optional)
- Small handful cilantro (leaves + soft stems)
- Squeeze of lemon
- Scant 1/2 tsp. salt
- Preheat oven to 425 F and place the baking rack in the middle of the oven.
- Prick eggplant with a fork in a few places and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet along with the clove of garlic (with skin on). Cook in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes, until the garlic is soft.
- Remove garlic, turn over eggplant, and continue cooking for an additional 20-25 minutes, until eggplant is very soft and slightly deflated. Set aside to cool slightly, then remove stem and peel away the charred skin and place the flesh in the bowl of a food processor.
- Remove the garlic skin and add to the food processor along with the remaining ingredient. Pulse several times until the mixture is combined but there is still some texture. You do not want the mixture completely pureed.
Notes: Although toppings can give the impression that they are optional, in particular the feta and olives are essential ingredients that work with the other components of the bulgur bowl to complete the flavor profile.
- Greek oil-cured black olives, pitted and chopped
- Sheep's milk feta, crumbled
- Mint & cilantro, chopped
- Green onions/scallions, chopped
- Sliced avocado (optional - not pictured)