Spelt Tabbouleh

Grainy, herby, tomatoey, lemony tabbouleh is a first-class side dish for warm weather meals. It comes from the mountains of Syria and Lebanon originally, and has become a popular mezze all over the Arab world. We love it too, and one of the first things we did when we made our homemade spelt bulgur was treat ourselves to a big bowl of spelt tabbouleh.

With no meat in the recipe, spelt tabbouleh is definitely vegetarian friendly. The story goes that when tabbouleh and other vegetable-based mezze were introduced to cooks in Baghdad, they made fun of the Syrian and Lebanese cooks for being too cheap to buy meat!

Spelt tabbouleh is great served with a basket of nice, fresh warm spelt pita breads.

Spelt Tabbouleh Recipe

spelt tabbouleh Prep Time: 30 minutes
Makes: 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup fine spelt bulgur
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced (optional)
  • Juice of 2 large lemons, to taste
  • 3 cups chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (from 3 large bunches)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
  • ½ pound ripe tomatoes, very finely chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
  • Salt, preferably kosher salt, to taste
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 romaine lettuce heart, leaves separated, washed and dried

Instructions:

  1. Place the spelt bulgur in a bowl, and cover with water by 1/2 inch. Soak for 20 minutes, until slightly softened. Drain through a cheesecloth-lined strainer, and press the spelt bulgur against the strainer to squeeze out excess water.
  2. Transfer to a large bowl, and toss with the garlic, lemon juice, parsley, mint, tomatoes, scallions and salt.
  3. Leave at room temperature or in the refrigerator for two to three hours, so that the spelt bulgur can continue to absorb liquid and swell.
  4. Add the olive oil, toss together, taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with lettuce leaves.

Adapted from The New York Times

Spelt Pita Bread

A middle eastern meal needs a stack of fresh, warm pita bread to be complete. Used to dip into hummus or baba ganoush, or to stuff with falafel or kibbe, pita is an essential and delicious accompaniment to the cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean. Making spelt pita bread turns out to be quick and easy. You need to have some whole spelt flour on hand for this recipe.

If you’ve never made flatbread before, this is a great recipe to start with. The only tricky thing is laying the pitas nice and flat on the baking stone when you first put each one in. And you need a nice broad spatula to flip them and to pull them out of the oven when they’re done.

Spelt Pita Bread Recipe

spelt pita bread Prep Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Makes: 8 eight inch spelt pita breads

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup whole spelt flour
  • 2 1/2 cups white spelt flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Make sponge: Put 1 cup lukewarm water in a large mixing bowl. Add yeast and sugar. Stir to dissolve. Add the whole spelt flour and 1/4 cup white spelt flour and whisk together. Put bowl in a warm (not hot) place, uncovered, until mixture is frothy and bubbling, about 15 minutes.
  2. Add salt, olive oil and nearly all remaining all-purpose flour (reserve 1/2 cup). With a wooden spoon or a pair of chopsticks, stir until mixture forms a shaggy mass. Dust with a little reserved flour, then knead in bowl for 1 minute, incorporating any stray bits of dry dough.
  3. Turn dough onto work surface. Knead lightly for 2 minutes, until smooth. Cover and let rest 10 minutes, then knead again for 2 minutes. Try not to add too much reserved flour; the dough should be soft and a bit moist. (At this point, dough may refrigerated in a large zippered plastic bag for several hours or overnight. Bring dough back to room temperature, knead into a ball and proceed with recipe.)
  4. Clean the mixing bowl and put dough back in it. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, then cover with a towel. Put bowl in a warm (not hot) place. Leave until dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  5. Heat oven to 475 degrees. On bottom shelf of oven, place a heavy-duty baking sheet, large cast-iron pan or ceramic baking tile. Punch down dough and divide into 8 pieces of equal size. Form each piece into a little ball. Place dough balls on work surface, cover with a damp towel and leave for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove 1 ball (keeping others covered) and press into a flat disc with rolling pin. Roll to a 6-inch circle, then to an 8-inch diameter, about 1/8 inch thick, dusting with flour if necessary. (The dough will shrink a bit while baking.)
  7. Carefully lift the dough circle and place quickly on hot baking sheet. After 2 minutes the dough should be nicely puffed. Turn over with tongs or spatula and bake 1 minute more. The spelt pita should be pale, with only a few brown speckles. Transfer warm spelt pita bread to a napkin-lined basket and cover so bread stays soft. Repeat with the rest of the dough balls.

Adapted from The New York Times

Homemade Spelt Bulgur

Spelt Bulgur is not available commercially, so we decided to make our own. Bulgur is an ancient food made from whole wheat berries. You cook them until tender, allow them to dry out, then crack them in a grinder or blender. Bulgur is used as a grain dish like rice, and is an essential ingredient in Middle Eastern dishes like kibbe (ground lamb and bulgur baked in a pan) and tabbouleh (parsley and bulgur salad).

We already had spelt berries in our pantry, so all we had to do was figure out how to make spelt bulgur from scratch.

Spelt Bulgur Recipe

spelt berries for spelt bulgur

Total time: 3 hours



Ingredients

Instructions

  • Some recipes call for soaking the whole spelt berries overnight, but it doesn’t make that much difference. Put the spelt berries in a pot with three or four times as much water as grain, bring to a boil and simmer until the spelt berries are tender, about 40 minutes (watch them pretty closely and start testing them to see if they’re done at about half an hour; cooking times will vary a lot depending on how fresh your spelt is).
  • When the spelt berries are tender, spread them on a sheet pan and dry thoroughly You can put them in a 150F oven, leave them in a warm place, or put them in the sun. You’ll want to shake the pan from time to time so they dry evenly.
  • Crack the dried spelt berries in a grinder or (carefully) in a blender: you risk winding up with bulgur flour if you blend them too long. Sieve the spelt bulgur after blending to get rid of the dust; otherwise it’ll cake up when you cook.
  • Store in a tightly closed container.