Spicy Bulgur Salad with Nuts and Tomato Paste Dressing

Makes 8 to 10 servings as an appetizer

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2 2/ 3 cups coarse bulgur, soaked in cold water
for 20 to 30 minutes, or until tender
3/ 4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, or juice of 1 lemon, or more to taste
1/ 4 cup plus 2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground coriander seeds
1/ 2 to 1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/ 2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne, or 1 to 3 teaspoons Aleppo or Maras pepper, or a pinch of hot red pepper flakes, to taste
Sea salt
1 cup coarsely ground walnuts
1 cup coarsely ground toasted hazelnuts
1/ 2 cup coarsely ground toasted salted almonds
1/ 2 cup toasted pine nuts
2/ 3 cup chopped fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley
8 to 10 medium romaine lettuce leaves (optional)

TOPPINGS (OPTIONAL)

1 small sweet onion, chopped
1/ 3 cup sliced or chopped fresh or pickled red or green chiles

Drain the bulgur well in a strainer lined with cheesecloth and pat with paper towels to extract all the water.

In a bowl, whisk together the olive oil, pomegranate molasses, tomato paste, and spices, adding salt sparingly. In a large bowl, mix the bulgur with the
nuts and add the cilantro. Pour the oil mixture over the bulgur mixture and toss well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. Taste and adjust the seasoning just before serving, preferably at room temperature. If you are using the toppings, toss half with the bulgur at the last minute. Spoon onto lettuce leaves if you like or serve in a bowl, sprinkling with the rest of the toppings. The bulgur salad keeps well in the refrigerator for about 4 days.

VARIATION : Instead of soaking the bulgur in water, you can place the grain in a bowl and pour 1 quart warm tomato juice over it. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes to absorb the juice, toss well, and continue adding the rest of the ingredients as directed.

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