Nearly two months later, I still can’t stop thinking about our trip to Istanbul. The flavors have seeped into my repertoire, influencing how I approach ingredients and combinations. This simple bulgur salad with pomegranate molasses quickly transports me back to the enchanting city on the Bosphorus, where my husband and I took a Turkish cooking class with Selin Rozanes through her company Turkish Flavours. Check out the article I wrote about it here, and another related one here (both have recipes!).
If you’re in Istanbul, I can’t recommend taking a market tour or cooking class enough. What better way to experience the culture than through its food? Although we didn’t have time to take a tour with Selin, I’m sure it would have been wonderful. Her cooking class certainly was. A native Istanbulite, Selin hosts cooking classes in her apartment, which she has outfitted with a gorgeous cooking nook. We made a feast, including artichoke bottoms stuffed with fava beans and spring onions, baked sea bass with tomatoes, purslane salad, and a bulgur and mung bean salad similar to this. At my request, Selin added Sephardic-Turkish dishes like Spinach “flan” and beef and leek kofte to the menu. For dessert we made baked pumpkin wedges, which we enjoyed with clotted cream. Of course we got to savor the meal we had made at the end and it was one of the best we ate in Istanbul.
I was struck by how simple each dish was, and yet how robust the flavors were. Much like other cooking from the region, similar ingredients are put together in a myriad of combinations that result in wildly different and unique recipes. Here, healthful bulgur is cooked and tossed with a toothsome mix of pomegranate molasses, chives, parsley, mint, lemon juice, and olive oil. On it’s own it makes a wonderful light lunch, and it’s the perfect side for a vegetarian or meat-based meal. Bring it to a barbecue or potluck this summer, enjoy it along with grilled chicken, tofu, or kofte. Play around with the fresh herbs you add, add lentils or mung beans for added bite, and adjust it to suit your taste.
Pomegranate molasses is readily available these days, but it couldn’t be easier to make. Just put some pomegranate juice (preferably fresh, but bottled works too) in a small pot and boil it until it’s a thick syrup. No sugar, no nothing – just pure, tart pomegranate juice. It’s a brilliant addition to marinades, salad dressings, and grain salads like this.
- 1 cup coarse bulgur
- 2 cups water
- ½ cup sliced chives
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- ½ cup chopped mint
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (recipe below)
- Juice of ½ lemon
- Salt and pepper
- ½ cup pomegranate juice
- Combine the bulgur and water in a medium-sized pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
- Lower the heat, cover, and cook until the water has absorbed and the bulgur is tender, about 15 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and allow to sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork.
- Transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the bulgur and toss to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper as needed, and add more pomegranate molasses or lemon juice to taste.
- Serve immediately or store, covered, overnight and allow to reach room temperature before serving.
- Put the pomegranate juice in a small pot and bring to a light boil over medium-high heat.
- Allow to simmer until it has been reduced by more than half and is a thick syrup, about 7 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Use immediately or store in a sealed jar in the fridge for up to 1 month (you may want to make a big batch and store it for future use).