There are very few people in life who you can simply hang around with for hours in the same space, no talking required, and just the simple act of being dominates time with just occasional interaction. Most likely your partner falls into this category, or the person you live with, maybe your best friend … but rarely any others. My brother has always been one of these people for me. Yesterday on his monthly visit, we realized we’ve been listening to music together while individually immersed in our individual creative projects for the past quarter century since the days he used to run up my steps every morning upon waking and jump into bed with me, begging me to dress him up and pose him around the house for yet another of my photography sessions in which he enthusiastically would star as muse. Of course, I no longer dress him up in little white tuxedos and pink tee shirts of the Don Johnson Miami Vice years and nowadays we tend to hang around while I write fiction and he creates music for his band El Burro and regales us with a continuous stream of the blues. The only thing that has changed is that as adults we have both become avid cooks and this means whenever he is around he also doubles as my guinea pig for whatever recipe I have lying around that I have been dying to try. He’s the most adventurous eater I know and nothing is off limits.
Because of this, I am constantly compelled to whip up something illustrious and complex that no one else would be game for when he’s around. Last night after feeding him a proper light bistro dinner of pate, blue cheese, goat cheese, apricots and sprouted rye bread this meant that I got a strange inspiration at eleven p.m. halfway through a reminiscent play list of the Allman Brothers to make a bulgur pudding for desert, inspired by this past weekend’s Los Angeles Times article on the sweet little wheat gems. Of course I completely altered the recipe with whatever I had on hand and the results were a magnificently rich, risotto-like pudding that was not too sweet which turned the accompanying bourbon in our glasses to liquid caramel.
Bulgur Blues Pudding (Adapted from the Los Angeles Times recipe)
1 1/2 cups bulgur
3 cups vanilla almond milk
½ cup chopped hazelnuts
6 dried apricots, divided
1 small orange
6 tablespoons organic sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup canned garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup canned cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
Ground cinnamon, for sprinkling
Combine the water and salt in a heavy, medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the bulgur, stir and return to a boil. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until the water is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Stir in 3 cups almond milk and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring often. Cook uncovered over low heat, stirring often, until the bulgur absorbs most of the milk, 12 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, coarsely chop 4 tablespoons of the hazelnuts. Halve the remaining ones and reserve for garnish. Dice 3 of the apricots. Cut the remaining apricots in thin slices or slivers and reserve for garnish. Grate 2 teaspoons of orange zest. Cut off the remaining orange rind and the pith, and cut the orange in small dice; reserve for garnish.
Add the sugar and honey to the bulgur mixture and mix well. Add the diced apricots, garbanzo beans and cannelini beans. Cook over low heat, stirring gently to avoid crushing the beans, until the sugar dissolves and the honey blends in, a few minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the grated orange zest and chopped nuts and mix gently. The pudding should be creamy, not soupy and not dry.
Serve the pudding warm, cold or at room temperature.
I sunk a square of dark chocolate in my bowl and as it melted, it added an extraordinarily sweet sense of depth to the otherwise earthy dish.