Eggplant Fennel Pilaf of Bulgur and Rice

4 small eggplants or approximately 4-cups when cut
1 teaspoon asian five spice powder, preferably thai
spice blend
1 teaspoon light sesame oil
1 teaspoon gomasio or a blend of sesame seeds and coarse salt
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and cored
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
freshly ground pepper
olive oil spray
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup red bell pepper strips
freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup cracked wheat bulgur
1/2 cup instant white rice, or leftover
16 ounces low sodium vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon better than bouillon vegetable soup base or other flavor enhancer
Finishing Touches
1/2 teaspoon butter BudsĀ® sprinkles
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, more or less
3 lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 350F.

Eggplant: Cut eggplant into large dice and toss with 5-spice, oil and gomasio. Spread on a sprayed non-stick cookie sheet.

Fennel: Trim and core the fennel bulb. Remove tough outer layers if necessary. Toss with basil, pepper and a little olive oil mist. Place in a non-stick oven pan that will fit in your oven along side the cookie sheet. Bake both at 350F for 15 minutes. Fennel should now be aromatic and soft. Remove from oven and let cool.

Continue to bake the eggplant for another 25 to 10 minutes or until lightly brown. Remove to cool.While vegetable are cooking, heat oil in a large skillet or wok. Sauté the onion until soft. Add the red pepper strips, season with pepper; sauté until peppers are softened and onions are lightly browned.

Pan roast the grains: Clear a space in the middle of the pan and add the bulgur and rice. Stir to 'toast' the grains, incorporating the onion mixture after about 2 minutes. Add the broth and the bouillon-flavor enhancer. Stir well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir and add the roasted vegetables. Simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the grains; about 15-20 minutes. Add the butter buds and cilantro; warm through. Serve with lemon wedges and offer gomasio.

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