Armenian Bulgur in Lettuce Leaf

Itch

As Maggie Saab, whose family was from Kilis, Armenia (today part of Turkey), taught Lindsay Sterling in Falmouth, MA.

Active time: 20 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Serves: 4-6
Note: You'll likely need to find the asterisked ingredients online or at a Middle Eastern market.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 6 oz. tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp sumac*
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup fine grain (#1) bulgur wheat*
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 head fresh lettuce or 1/4 head cabbage or fresh grape leaves
  • 6-12 sprigs fresh spearmint
  • 6-12 sprigs fresh parsley
  • Small dish of delicious olives with pits (optional)
  • 6 pita bread or flatbread (optional)
  • 8 oz. mild white cheese such as hallum (queso blanco also works) (optional)
  • 6-12 small sprigs fresh thyme (optional)

Equipment

  • large pot with lid
  • spoon
  • liquid measuring cup (or eyeball it)
  • cutting board
  • chef knife
  • mixing spoon
  • serving platter
  • bread basket or serving plate
  • 4 small serving plates (for sides of olives, herbs, leaves, and cheese)

Instructions

1. In a large pot with lid, saute onions in oil until soft. Add tomato paste and three cups water and bring to a boil. Add salt, sumac, and lemon juice. Once this boils, stir in the bulgur wheat and cover. Let the mixture sit off heat for about 40 minutes.

2. Adjust the texture. If after resting the bulgar has not become a paste, stir in a little bit more bulgur, which will soak up more liquid. The texture you want is is a soft, yet firm paste. If the mixture is too firm and dry you could stir in little bit more water. If adding water or bulgur, let the mixture rest again before serving so the bulgur has time to soak up liquid.

3. Serve itch on a family-style platter, garnished with fresh parsley sprigs. Put out additional fresh leaves of lettuce, cabbage, or grape vine; and fresh spearmint and/or parsley leaves. Guests spoon the itch (the bulgar dish) onto the leaves and top with a fresh sprig of parsley and/or mint. Delicious! Armenian itch also goes well served along with olives, pieces of pita, and slices of mild white cheese with sprigs of fresh thyme.

Maggie Saab (right) shares her favorite dish from Armenia.

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