Pilaf of Cracked Wheat

Cracked wheat makes a great side dish. It’s both very tasty and (dietarily) is pure whole grain, albeit with a few seasonings.

I raided my mom’s cookbook stash and found this 1913 gem: The Oriental Cook Book: Wholesome, Dainty and Economical Dishes of the Orient, Especially Adapted to American Tastes and Methods of Preparation (New York: Sully & Kleinteich). The author is pictured and looks quite debonaire; his name is Ardashes H. Keoleian, and apparently he hailed from Constantinople, now, of course, Istanbul. Obviously, here Oriental means east of Europe…. Keoleian calls this dish Boulghour Pilaf (pg. 46).

  • 5 cups stock
  • 2 cups cracked wheat
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • salt and pepper

Keoleian’s method: “In a deep vessel bring the broth to a boil and pour the cracked wheat into it; season to taste with salt, and boil on moderate fire until done. Then heat the butter in a separate pan, chop the onion into it, sift over the pepper, and when the onion is fried pink,* pour it over the Pilaf in the vessel and stir well until the entire contents is saturated with it. The vessel then should be placed in a hot oven, uncovered, to cause the remaining water to evaporate.”

My method: use less stock (about two-to-three parts liquid to one part grain—some versions are ground/cracked finer and need less liquid, while coarser ones need more, in my experience). Cook like rice; simmer covered (do not peek!), on a low burner, for about 20 minutes in a heavy-bottomed pan. In a skillet, heat butter or olive oil and add assorted veggies. These can be a simple few (onion, perhaps garlic), or many and chunky. You can even get wild and make this into an easy casserole (think zucchini, broccoli, eggplant, etc.).** Only cook each type of veggie long enough to get it cooked (add to skillet in species staggered batches, or cook each separately). Salt and pepper. In a serving bowl, gently stir together the contents of the two pans. Adjust seasoning.

* I am guessing Keoleian used red onions?

** Also heat and add leftover chunked meat (lamb?) to make the carnivores happy?