This dish caught my eye in Chef Mattar’s latest book Maedat Marlene min Halab in which she reports on dishes she tasted while visiting Aleppo, Syria. How lucky for us. This one she titled traveling jew (Yehudi musafer), with the caption that it was an ancient dish. She adds ground meat to the pilaf, but it is considered optional.
Funny thing, I made the exact same pilaf years ago ; I guess bulgur, onions, tomatoes, and eggplants are such a natural combo. I saw it in another cookbook under the name shelbato, without any meat, a very simple dish served at room temperature.
This is my version:
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 medium eggplant, cut in small chunks
1 cup bulgur (coarse #3 or 4)
2 cups water or stock
2 or 3 tomatoes, chopped small
salt, to taste
1. In a saucepan over medium heat, pour the oil and fry the onion till it turns color; add the eggplant chunks and fry as well till golden then transfer to a plate; pour the bulgur and fry for a couple of minutes until the grains are coated with oil. Add the water, salt and cover.
2.Check the bulgur about 12 minutes later and if it is soft, add the eggplant chunks and tomato bits to the pilaf. Turn down the heat and leave for another 10 minutes. Toss the pilaf and take away from the heat. Cool and serve with a bit of yogurt on the side.
NOTE: Add more water if the bulgur is still too tough to the bite after 12 minutes of cooking, say 1/2 cup. In Chef Mattar’s version, the pilaf contains diced bell peppers (red); the shelbato is only onion, tomato, eggplant and bulgur.