Non-cheesy vegetarian

Chickpea Bulgur Pilaf photographed by REG

Chickpea Bulgur Pilaf photographed by REG

It’s time for another Jewish holiday, Shavuot, which begins this Tuesday night and lasts a mere two days, hardly a blip on the Jewish calendar.  In fact, it’s such a blip that it’s often unknown or ignored except by people  who are very Jewishly connected and/or love cheese blintzes and cheese cake, the traditional foods of this holiday for Ashkenazi Jews.

Half a life ago, my bff for most Middle East adventures, Lisa T. (who will not, I promise, be mentioned in every Blue Dot post), and I made a Shavuot meal together. Only after we served savory blintzes and sweet blintzes and something else cheesy and then cheese cake for dessert, did it occur to us that our two guests were both sons of men who had died young of heart attacks.

And so, after that ridiculously rich meal, I started to look into ways to cook vegetarian meals that weren’t all about cheese.  26 years later (yup, that’s officially half my life as I write this), I’m still cooking the first vegetarian recipe I made that wasn’t cheesy and buttery: chickpea bulgur pilaf.  Prior to making this dish, I’d only eaten bulgur in tabouleh. This dish launched my full-blown  bulgur addiction.  Now I  could eat it at every meal–especially since I discovered that Ethiopians eat very buttery and delicious bulgur for breakfast

This chickpea bulgur pilaf remains my favorite wheat dish. It’s a hearty  one-pot vegetarian meal , especially if served with some minty, peppery yogurt on the side. Over the years, I’ve further simplified the easy recipe I first found in Madhur Jaffrey’s great World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking so that it can be a quick week night meal. Jaffrey’s recipe calls for fresh tomatoes, but I use canned, a staple in my pantry, and also fresh parsley but you can use dried.

Of course, you can still make a “blintz, blintz and cheese cake” meal if you like.  But I’m not sure that your guests wouldn’t enjoy pilaf and then cheese cake even more.

photography by REG
photography by REG

Chickpea bulgur pilaf

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion coarsely chopped

1 14.5 oz can of stewed tomatoes (can be chopped but don’t have to be)

1 15 oz can of chickpeas, drained

2 tablespoons minced parsley

½ teaspoon salt (if you like; with all the canned goods, you may not need to)

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 ½ cups coarse bulgur wheat


Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Saute chopped onion 2 minutes until soft.  Add tomatoes and cook 3-4 minutes.  Add drained chickpeas and parsley and cook for 10 minutes on lowish heat, stirring occasionally.

Add bulgur, one cup of water, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.

Cover and turn heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.

Turn off heat. Remove lid and cover with dish towel.

Makes great leftovers!