It’s Turkish Cuisine Week, so I’m celebrating with this recipe for Kisir, a grain salad made with fine bulgur wheat (cracked wheat berries that are partially pre-cooked and easy to prepare), vegetables, and fresh herbs. This salad can be stuffed into lettuce leaves and enjoyed as a meze or appetizer; served as a side salad with dinner; or topped with your favorite protein for a main meal. Use regular or whole grain bulgur, or if you follow a gluten-free diet, switch to quinoa, rice, or GF couscous.
I first tried this Turkish grain salad while attending a virtual cooking demonstration hosted by Go Türkiye and Chef Ayse Serra Yucel. I adapted the recipe a bit based on what I found at my local supermarket and a few of my flavor preferences, and you’ll see my version in the recipe below.
As a foodie and dietitian, I love all the veggies in this dish – green onion, tomatoes, orange bell pepper, and fresh parsley, dill, and mint. But flavor is still number-one in my book, and this recipe certainly delivered with some heat from the red pepper flakes, the fresh, explosive flavors of the herbs, and the earthy flavor of Turkish pepper paste, a condiment known as biber salcasi. This thick deep red paste is made by blending together cooked red peppers and salt and is used as a dressing for bulgur wheat salads like this one, stirred into shakshuka, and can be mixed with seasoning blends like za’atar and spread on toasted bread.
The chef literally squeezed the cooked grains and veggies together and used it as a filling in stuffed lettuce leaves.
- 1 cup fine bulgur
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup hot water
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ medium onion, cut into small dice
- ½ tablespoon red pepper paste
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- 4 green onions (scallions), trimmed and cut into thin rounds
- 2 medium tomatoes, cut into small dice
- 1 orange bell pepper, cut into small dice
- ¼ bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped (plus more to taste)
- ¼ bunch fresh dill, finely chopped (plus more to taste)
- ½ cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped, optional
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- Pomegranate molasses, optional
- Place bulgur and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Add water, cover with a lid or plastic wrap, and let sit 15 minutes until liquid has been absorbed. Fluff with a fork.
- Meanwhile, heat the 2 teaspoons oil in a small to medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, 5 minutes. Set aside.
- Place the red pepper paste, red pepper flakes, and cumin in a small bowl and stir with a spoon to combine. Add to the bulgur and mix well with your hands (preferably gloved!) or spoon. until the bulgur grains are well coated with the mixture.
- Add the cooked onion, green onion, tomatoes, bell pepper, parsley, dill, and. mint as desired and stir well to combine.
- Stir in the olive oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasonings. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses, stir, taste, and adjust with a few more drizzles as desired. (The molasses adds tart, tangy, slightly sweet flavor.)