It wasn't until I met my Armenian-born husband, Bernard, that I understood the wonders of bulgur, the cracked wheat that's widely used in Middle Eastern cooking. Sure, I'd tasted it in tabbouleh, the delicious salad of bulgur and parsley. But soon Bernard was introducing me to hearty Armenian soups made with bulgur and mushrooms and to kufte, seasoned ground lamb meatballs kneaded with the grain. I fell in love right away with the ingredient's nutty flavor and delicate texture. Bulgur makes a wonderful thickener for soups and can be used as a binder for lentil dumplings and meatballs. It can be mixed with meat and seasonings and stuffed inside hollowed-out squash, zucchini, and eggplants. I've found varieties that are coarse and slightly chewy and others that are as fine as sand. Bulgur is a staple in our home, and it's my favorite ingredient. There are just so many dishes in which to use this simple, ancient food. —Marion Karian, Fresno, California

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