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Healthy Eating, Salads, Vegetarian

Spicy bulgur salad with sweet peppers and pepper paste

Spicy bulgur salad with sweet peppers and pepper paste
Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

When I lived in the Middle East, I learned that tender tabbouleh salad and crunchy fried kibbeh, the celebrated Levantine croquette, share a key ingredient: bulgur. Since ancient times, bulgur has been a staple in the Fertile Crescent, where it ... Read more

Total time: 1 hour | Serves 4 to 6
  • 1 cup bulgur, medium (No. 2) or fine (No. 1) (about 5.5 ounces)
  • Salt
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 3 small green onions
  • 5 tablespoons fruity extra-virgin olive oil, or more to taste, divided
  • 1 brown onion (about 8 ounces), chopped (about 1 2/3 cups)
  • 2 red bell peppers (about 1 pound), finely diced (about 2 2/3 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Turkish-style pepper paste, preferably hot, or to taste
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice, or to taste, divided
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes, or to taste (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped Italian parsley (about 1/2 of a 4-ounce bunch)

Step 1Combine the bulgur and one-half teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Pour the hot water over the bulgur, cover and set aside until the water is absorbed and the bulgur is tender but still slightly chewy, about 15 minutes.

Step 2If the white ends of the green onions are thick, halve them lengthwise. Cut the white and green parts of the green onions in thin slices. You will need about one-third cup.

Step 3Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped brown onion and the peppers and saute, stirring occasionally, until they are tender but not brown, about 15 minutes. Add the cumin, stir over low heat for 30 seconds and remove from the heat.

Step 4In a small bowl, whisk the pepper paste with 2 tablespoons oil and 2 tablespoons lemon juice until blended. Whisk in 1 additional tablespoon lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper. Add this dressing to the bulgur and toss with a fork to blend. Add pepper flakes if desired. Lightly stir in the sauteed vegetable mixture, followed by the mint, green onions and parsley. Taste and adjust seasoning; add more lemon juice and/or oil if desired. Serve the salad at room temperature.

Note: If you shape the salad mixture in oval patties and set each on a tender romaine lettuce leaf, it can be picked up and eaten wrapped in the leaf. The platter of salad is sometimes garnished with tomato wedges and slices of Persian cucumber. Turkish red pepper paste comes in hot and mild varieties; if you use the mild one in this recipe, you may want to add a little more. Sometimes the paste is labeled paprika paste. If there is no English on the label, the word "aci" tells you it is hot. Even the hot version has some sweetness and is not as fiery as Southeast Asian pepper pastes such as sambal oelek. Some people use tomato paste instead of pepper paste and spice the salad with semi-hot pepper flakes.


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