Bulgur Wheat, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Gratin

sweet-potato-bulgur-casserole

Getting more whole grains onto our tables is something most of us are thinking about, and in fact possibly even stressing about.  Before you start cooking with them they can seem so mysterious, so intimidating.  They are just a grain, like rice or anything else, and they can enter your cooking repertoire in so many different ways.

Here in this Bulgur Wheat, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Gratin, the bulgur wheat is first cooked, then layered into a casserole with sweet potatoes, lightly spicy black beans, and melty provolone or gruyere (more on that shortly),  then baked.  You could really use any cooked whole grain you like here: brown rice, quinoa, or couscous, for instance.  If it’s not tomato season, you can substitute diced canned tomatoes – I’ve done both, and both work just fine.

Using vegetarian broth makes this a vegetarian meal, but quite a hearty one.  And then it’s an excellent addition to a dinner menu or a buffet when there are some vegetarians in the group, who can enjoy this as a main course, and also a meat dish for carnivores, in which case this makes a satisfying side dish.

So, which cheese to use?  That’s the fun part.  I’ve made it with provolone, which is milder, and also gruyere which is more assertive with its nutty flavor.  Swiss, cheddar, emmental, there are so many cheeses that would work here.  And actually, I’ll bet pull-ey, stretchy mozzarella would give it a little bit of that lasagna-ish vibe, which I think would be pretty fabulous.

Passing lime wedges on the side to squirt over each portions gives the dish a wonderful bright finishing note.

I brought this to a lobster roll party for no apparent reason other than I had made it and some of my hosts were vegetarian (this was the gruyere version) and the teenage girl and her mom were pretty effusive in their praise.  And more than that, another time my mother said this was, “one of the best things she’s ever eaten.”  (The provolone version).  I honestly thought she was kidding me for a bit, because she’s not that prone to hyperbolic compliments.

This reheats nicely – about 30 minutes in a 300°F oven should do it (keep it covered with foil unless you want it to brown further).

3 cups cooked bulgur wheat

2 cups diced fresh tomatoes or 1 (15-ounce) can (no need to drain)

1 (15.5 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

2 1/2 cups shredded or slivered provolone, gruyere or other firm cheese, divided

6 scallions, white and green parts, trimmed and minced, divided

¼ cup sour cream, plus more to serve if desired

½ cup heavy cream

½ cup chicken or vegetable broth

2 teaspoons pureed chipotle in adobo sauce

Coarse or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 large sweet potato, very thinly sliced

Lime wedges to serve

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Lightly oil a shallow 2-quart baking dish or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cooked bulgur, tomatoes, black beans, 1 1/2 cups cheese, and half the scallions.  In a small bowl whisk together the sour cream, heavy cream, chicken broth, pureed chipotles, and salt and pepper.  Add the sour cream mixture to the quinoa mixture and mix well.
  3. Place half of the bulgur mixture in the prepared pan, layer over half the sliced sweet potatoes, barely overlapping the edges of the slices, and repeat using the rest of the bulgur mixture and the rest of the sweet potatoes.  Sprinkle the remaining cup of cheese over the casserole, cover with foil and put in the oven.  Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil, and continue to bake for 35 to 40 more minutes, until browned and bubbly, and a knife inserted in the casserole slides in easily thorough the potatoes.
  4. Remove for the oven, let sit for 5 minutes, sprinkle the rest of the scallions on top, and serve hot.  Serve with lime wedges and pass the additional sour cream, if desired.

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