Taking a Crack at It

Bulgur, a variety of cracked wheat, is central to most Near Eastern cuisines, Morocco’s among them, which makes the pilaf pictured atop today’s plate a delicious part of many a North African meal.  When it’s served with chopped apricots and various heady spices, you have a preparation as featured in Gourmet‘s 2009 recipe collection.

The resulting mixture lends a subtle nuttiness, made ethereal when an aromatic blend of cinnamon, cayenne and allspice elevates the flavor.  Moreover, bits of apricot provide fleck of sweetness, helping to enhance the other, more earthy, elements.  This combination is a wonderful companion to grilled entrees, setting a hearty stage on which the smoke dances.

In fact, when Bon Appetit described Moroccan Chicken Brochettes in its July 2014 issue, they promised to be a great accompaniment to the pilaf.  Coated with cumin, garlic, cilantro and paprika, the flames sear in the spices and give the chicken a light trace of smoke.

Best of all is the dipping sauce pictured above in the upper left-hand corner.  Relatively simple, it brings together yogurt, olive oil and garlic to contribute creaminess with a little bite.  When it adorns today’s brochettes, each taste sings an enchanting melody, spiciness chasing the savory.

Though it doesn’t appear in any of today’s recipes, the mint green tea you see above is a perfect way to enhance these flavors, and is the quintessentially Moroccan beverage for a reason.  The mint supplies a freshness which, when contrasted with the chicken’s richness, lends a cooling, smooth balance.

When taken with the Bulgur Pilaf, the tea completes the taste profile.  The wheat draws together all these tastes, makin it so more than just a side dish.


Bulgur Pilaf with Dried Apricots

  • 1/2 cup finely-chopped onion (*1)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup bulgur
  • 1 and 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots

In a small saucepan over medium flame, cook onion in the olive oil, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the allspice, cayenne and cinnamon and cook for another minute.

Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand, covered for 5 minutes.  Fluff with a fork and garnish with chopped cilantro, if desired.


1 – A large shallot is even better.


Moroccan Chicken Brochettes

For the garlic sauce::

  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons yogurt

For the chicken:

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt, to taste

For the garlic sauce, place the garlic and a little salt in a mortar and pestle and smash it until it forms a paste.  Transfer this to a bowl and slowly whisk in the olive oil.  Very gradually, whisk in the yogurt.  Once sauce is smooth, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Meanwhile, toss the chicken, cilantro, paprika, cumin and pepper flakes in a medium bowl.  Season with salt and cover.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat a grill to medium-high and thread the chicken onto skewers.  Cook for about 10 minutes, flipping skewers about halfway through.  Serve with garlic sauce and alongside tomatoes and mint leaves, if desired.


21 thoughts on “Taking a Crack at It

  1. Preparing bulgar in the fashion as your recipe suggests makes it a delicacy. I could eat this lovely meal for days and never tire of it. If only I had my own personal chef by the name of “TA”… 🤔

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Why thank you, Tamara! For what it’s worth, future entries will explore other alternatives to “plain ol'” rice. Also, some varieties of rice that most definitely are not “plain ol’,” either.

      That personal chef of yours keeps a well-stocked pantry.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Lovely compliment, Jenn. Thank you!

      Taste relies on all the other senses enticing the dinner guest beforehand. The picture conveys, maybe, some of what the eye takes in, but as for sound, scent and touch, it’s all in your imagination, my friend!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely! I’m sure I’ve mentioned I very much like the idea of cooking with fruit, so the pilaf intrigues me, and those brochettes sound pretty good too. The sauce I was curious about: does it matter what kind of yogurt you use? Or can you put in anything from Greek to strawberry?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Much obliged, Rachel!

      Actually, I’d recommend against any of the conventional fruit yogurts, as their taste would distract from what you’re trying to accomplish.

      That said, I like your idea of using fruit. How about something more in keeping with North African cuisine, though? Start with Greek yogurt, then add… well, diced dried apricots are the first thing that comes to mind. Do you like them?

      Chopped figs or dates are another possibility, if you like them. I don’t, to be honest, but I can see where you’re going with the notion.

      Or – here’s an idea – how about minced preserved lemons? You may find preserved lemons in the supermarket if there’s a significant Near Eastern population nearby. If not, there’s always Amazon, of course. I think you’ll like preserved lemons. You definitely know what you’re eating, but they’re not tart at all.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do like dried apricots, and I think that’s brilliant. I actually don’t mind dates either, but just… Not for this.

        I had no idea that preserved lemons was a thing, but that does indeed sound like something I’d like very much.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s a great way to approach it, Rachel!

        If nothing else, you can look up “preserved lemons” on Amazon. In fact, if you’re interested, I’ll recommend the brand that has worked well in my kitchens.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. You may rely on Mina’s quality, and Casablanca Market usually is good too. For your (wonderfully creative!) purposes, you’ll want to drain the lemons before using them. Easier that way.

        I often add a little of the liquid to my recipes, but then, that’s my preference, and I usually am cooking something large-scale, i.e., a tagine, and the liquid adds a nice flavor.

        To each his own, though.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Happy to offer it, Rachel. Thanks!

        If you intend to take the lemons in combination with yogurt, you may wish to add a dash or two of sugar. Nothing overwhelming – maybe a teaspoon’s-worth, total – but enough to soften the yogurt’s tartness and the lemons’ slight brininess, while accentuating the flavors that underlie both.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. “Amazing.”

        Now there’s a wonderfully-charitable word, Rebecca.

        Of course, I might choose other, better, descriptions, such as “pointless” or “ridiculous.”

        Maybe the terms aren’t irreconcilable, though. Perhaps my pointlessness and my ridiculousness just amaze you.

        Still, that’s what a year of lockdown/quarantine yields – all sorts of great ideas for the next four years!


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