bulgur-and-chick-peaI’m a big fan of cooking a batch of basic grains at the beginning of week to have on hand for quick meals or sides. With some simple additions, these staples allow you easily prepare something tasty at all times without having to spend forty minutes cooking every meal. I try to mix up which I cook each week: sometimes it’s a pot of brown rice, other times bulgur wheat, or farro, or a combination mixture with beans.

This week I cooked bulgur wheat and chickpeas and used it as the basis for a few different dishes. (I made one batch: in a small saucepan, cover a cup of dry bulgur (I use a larger coarse grain bulgur) with two cups of boiling water and a tablespoon of olive oil. Bring back to a boil, add a can of chickpeas, turn down and simmer covered for thirty minutes or so until tender, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste.)

Not Quite Tabbouleh Salad. (pictured above) Take a cup of the cold bulgur and chickpea mix, add a few tablespoons of fresh parsley, some chopped cherry tomatoes, a few teaspoons of sweet onion if you have it (I didn’t), a hint of cumin, and a few teaspoons of lemon juice to taste. Season with salt and pepper, and enjoy!

Middle Eastern Yogurt Soup: Heat a clove of minced garlic in some chili oil, or (olive oil with a bit of chili powder), add a cup and a half of yogurt, and stir until hot. Add this to a half a cup of warm bulgur and chickpeas. If desired serve with some mini meatballs. (I used Ikea swedish meatballs and it tasted just delicious.)

Just plain, thanks: served simply with a side of grilled lemon chicken and some garlicky sauteed broccolini.

Take a trip around the world: I try to come up with my permutations for these grains by picking a flavor “destination”. If I want Moroccan, I’d add some cumin, cinnamon, smoked paprika and maybe some chopped dried apricots. For France, I might add some Herbes de Provence, and some roasted fennel, and top with a lemon vinaigrette. For Greek, I might do the “not quite tabbouleh” and add some feta cheese, and cucumber. For Italian, I might add some toasted pine nuts, sage, and cubed butternut squash. I find the possibilities doing this endless, and it’s a great way to mix things up without getting bored!

The bottom line… Having these grains on hand make meals simple, make economic sense, provide a healthy alternative when hungry for a snack, and are tasty and delicious. Just make a pot!