Thursday, October 21, 2010

Turkish Bulgur Salad (Kisir)

This tasty bulgur salad is sort of the Turkish version of the Middle Eastern tabbouleh salad (If you mention tabbouleh in Turkey, probably very few people would know that name, but everybody knows the name kisir.) It is originated from southeastern Turkey, but it's very popular all over the country, and everybody has their own little different way of making it; although sometimes I wonder why people do not put a lot of veggies in kisir, it is a salad after all...
This salad is a more hearty version of tabbouleh, you can serve it as an appetizer or a side dish, but it is so satisfying, in my family sometimes we also eat this as a main course: Serve a cup of yogurt, a few slices of bread, a few slices of radish and several lettuce leaves with kisir, and you got yourself a meal !... Of course, do not forget to put extra red pepper flakes on the table, in case some people like it really spicy hot!... Try this and you'll be hooked like so many others...

Ingredients: (Serves 4) 

  • 1 cup fine bulgur
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoons pepper paste (hot or mild)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mint
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2-3 medium-size tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1-2 cubanelle peppers, seeded and diced
  • 3 small dill pickles, diced (like: Vlasic Snack'mms), or 1 small cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 bunch parsley, minced
  • 5-6 scallions, finely chopped, or 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice (and/or pomegranate molasses)
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Lettuce leaves, for serving (optional)

  • Put bulgur in a large pot (with a lid), pour boiling water over it, and quickly stir to make sure that the bulgur is wet all over. Close the lid and let it sit, while you prepare the other ingredients (this is a good time to start cutting all the veggies, and the bulgur will absorb the hot water and soften in the meantime).
  • When you are done with your prep work, check the bulgur (it should be soft, but al dente - not soaking!). Add tomato paste, pepper paste, all the spices and salt to your taste (I personally add 1 full teaspoon salt for this amount of bulgur) and mix - for this step, it is best to use your clean hands for mixing, so the pastes and spices are evenly distributed into the bulgur, I sometimes put on latex gloves to save myself all that hand washing, they work great!
  • Add all the veggies, olive oil and lemon juice/pomegranate molasses and mix (try not to squish the veggies).
  • You can eat the kisir by itself, or serve it with lettuce leaves, so people can stuff the salad into the lettuce leaves and eat it with their hands.

Additional notes:

  • Originally kisir should be eaten really hot (spicy hot), but it is a matter of taste, so you can totally skip adding the red pepper flakes or add much more than just 1/4 teaspoon. The idea of serving it with lettuce leaves makes real sense when kisir is really hot, because eating it stuffed in fresh, juicy lettuce leaves balances the spiciness in a wonderful way.
  • Pepper paste and pomegranate molasses are the two ingredients that make this salad authentic. You can find them in most ethnic/Middle Eastern grocery stores. But if you can't find them, just use more tomato paste instead of pepper paste, and lemon juice instead of pomegranate molasses. By the way, you can use pomegranate molasses also in other salads as an acidic element, in place of lemon juice or vinegar, it has a nice sweet & sour taste.
  • You can double or triple this recipe, just go easy when you are adding the olive oil and lemon juice at the end before just dumping the double or triple amount of liquids, you do not want to make the salad soaking wet, add the liquids gradually and check the wetness as you go.
  • Do not skip seeding the tomatoes, otherwise you will end up with a very wet salad.
  • Do not add more cumin than above ratio. A little cumin goes a long way. More may ruin the taste.

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