This is the second of four quick meals featuring ancient grains, from cookbook author Maria Speck. She calls bulgur, made from durum wheat, "ancient fast food." It is now widely available at grocery stores as well as at Middle Eastern markets and health food/organic stores.

The medium-coarse grain (No. 3) is called for here; you can watch Speck describe types of and uses for bulgur at

This dish also works well with lamb chops or spicy Italian sausages in place of the chicken.

Serve with sauteed carrots. Based on a recipe from Speck's "Ancient Grains for Modern Meals" (Ten Speed Press, 2011).

4 servings


1/4 cup whole, skin-on almonds

1 1/2 cups water

1 cup medium-coarse bulgur (see headnote)

1/4 teaspoon salt, preferably fine sea salt, plus more to taste

1 medium shallot

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 to 1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken cutlets (may substitute boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to an even 1/2-inch thickness between 2 sheets of plastic wrap)

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons pomegranate juice or pomegranate molasses (optional)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or to taste

Pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste


Preheat the toaster oven to 325 degrees. Spread the almonds on a small baking sheet. Bake for 6 to 9 minutes, until fragrant and slightly darker in color, tossing them once to promote even browning. Cool.

Meanwhile, pour the water into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the bulgur and salt; once the water returns to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for about 12 minutes, stirring once or twice to keep the bulgur from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat; keep covered for 5 minutes, then uncover and fluff with a fork. Taste, and add salt as needed.

While the bulgur is cooking/steaming, mince the shallot. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the shallot to the skillet and cook for 3 or 4 minutes, until softened and fragrant, then add the chicken and cook until lightly browned on both sides, 6 to 8 minutes total. Stir in the pomegranate juice or molasses if using. Turn to coat the chicken evenly, then transfer to a plate and partially cover to keep warm.

Wipe out the skillet. Place the butter in it, over medium-low heat. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, so the butter smells nutty-sweet and begins to brown. Add the cooled almonds, cinnamon and cayenne pepper, stirring to incorporate, then add the bulgur; be careful, as it might sputter on contact. Cook for 1 or 2 minutes, until warmed through, fragrant and evenly seasoned. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Divide among individual plates, then add equal portions of chicken (cutting as needed) to each serving.

Nutrition per serving: 380 calories, 33g protein, 30g carbohydrates, 16g fat, 5g saturated, 80mg cholesterol, 230mg sodium, 8g dietary fiber, 0g sugar.