If you’ve been around here much, you know that we’re all huge asparagus fans. As soon as it might possibly, maybe, sort of be in season, we pick up a bunch (or 3). And, if you really pay attention around here, then you might also know that we eat tons of bulgur. It’s one of my absolute favorite grains because it’s so healthy for you, tastes nutty and fabulous, and cooks up in no time.
It stands to reason, then, that as soon as I saw this recipe pop up in my reader, it went on the menu. And after we ate it and enjoyed the leftovers, it went right back onto the menu the following week. Sometimes, we pay so much attention to the main course, that sides tend to be a second thought (if a thought at all). This pilaf is a perfect side to pretty much anything, and the bonus is that since it contains both carbs and vegetables, you don’t need to think about a second side at all. Or, hey, just eat it as a main dish (I think it would be great with goat cheese too. Just sayin’.)
I’ve made this with green onion and leeks and I prefer the leeks, but it’s great with both. The pilaf is toasted and nutty, the asparagus is nice and crisp, and the citrus and basil bring a great springtime brightness to the dish. You can bet I’ll be making this at least a few more times before the end of asparagus season (but let’s not talk about the end of asparagus season – maybe then it won’t happen).
Bulgur Pilaf with Asparagus
Adapted from Chicago Tribune
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 green onions or 1 leek, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup orzo
2.25 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup bulgur
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. orange zest
2 cups sliced asparagus, cut diagonally into 1/2″ pieces
1 tsp. orange juice
2 tsp. lemon juice
12 basil leaves, thinly sliced
Heat 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil in a small Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the green onions or leek; cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Add the garlic and orzo and cool until orzo is toasted, about 2 minutes.
Add broth; heat to a boil. Stir in the bulgur; cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until liquid is absorbed, about 12 minutes (a little longer for coarser grained bulgur). Stir in the lemon and orange zest, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and let sit 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add asparagus; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 7 minutes. When nearly done, add the orange and lemon juices and a pinch of salt. Stir into the pilaf.