Blanche Shaheen is an Arab American television host and reporter who reported on ABC’s “View from the Bay,” hosted the independent film show, “Video I” for PBS for 10 years, and reported live news daily for the Tech TV show called “Tech Live.” In 2010, she began hosting her own cooking show, and sharing years of treasured family recipes preserved by her mother and grandmother. Growing up in a close Arab American household, traditional Arabic dishes were central to Blanche’s family’s life. However, she noticed that previous generations of her family did not document these recipes on paper, but handed down the cooking techniques only by word of mouth. So she began a mission of cultural preservation, documenting the cooking methods and exact ingredients for each of her family recipes, and her inspiring Middle Eastern website and food blog, Feast in the Middle East, was born.
Blanche launched her YouTube cooking show called Feast in the Middle East to share many recipes with her family and friends, and with the world. This Bulgur Pilaf with Pomegranate Molasses and Black Garlic Dressing recipe is a family favorite, and is featured in her indispensable new Arab cookbook, Feast in the Middle East, A Personal Journey of Family and Cuisine, published in 2020.
“It seems the pomegranate was domesticated more than once, in several places around Iran, the Levant and Near East, possibly starting about 8,000 years ago,” says Blanche. “Pomegranates are planted in many Mediterranean countries. In Lebanon, they grow on the coast as well as mountainous areas, cultivated by rainfall. The fruit comes in sour and sweet varieties but both types have immense health benefits. The pomegranate is native to a region from modern-day Iran to northern India.”
Pomegranates have been cultivated throughout the Middle East, South Asia, and Mediterranean region for several millennia, and it is also cultivated in the Central Valley of California and in Arizona. This dish is a healthy way to feature the great taste of pomegranate seeds and molasses, and makes an inviting side dish when pomegranates are at peak season, she adds.
Bulgur Pilaf with Pomegranate Molasses and Black Garlic Dressing “A collection of fresh mint gathered from the garden, a bag of ripe pomegranates from the farmer’s market, some leftover grains in the pantry, or an exotic condiment like pomegranate molasses all fuel my recipe creations,” says Blanche. “These ingredients inspired this bulgur pilaf. Like a bowl of jewels, the flavors and textures are at once chewy, crunchy, nutty, sweet, and savory. I serve this non-perishable dish at potlucks and picnics, or as part of a holiday feast (the green and red in the pilaf add a festive touch). The dressing is simple yet robust because of the sweet and tart pomegranate molasses, and the black garlic which adds luxurious flavor.
You can use garlic powder or minced garlic cloves if you don’t have black garlic. I love black garlic because it has hints of caramel, with no pungency so you can eat it as is without sautéing first.”