Wednesday, October 8, 2008

on tabbouli


tabbouli (can be spelled different ways, including tabbouleh) is probably the healthiest thing i make. i ate it in abundance when i worked for a mediterranean restaurant in florida. during the time when service was slow, all the servers and cooks would sit around on the tall stools in the bar area picking the stems off of parsley and putting the leaves into huge oversized bowls (lord, i picked parsley for countless hours - that brings back some memories). i've seen it made with different ratios of bulgur wheat to parsley; at this particular restaurant, it was mostly parsley, around 4:1. i think (i could be wrong; i often am) that the ratio of bulgur to parsley changes depending on where one is located in the Middle East (like harissa - each North African country has its variation on it). so i'm not really going to give you a recipe for this; it's more of a guideline. i make it and i taste it along the way, and if i think it needs more of a certain ingredient, i'll add more.

what you'll need:

1 cup bulgar wheat
1 cup parsley leaves (at least)
1 cup mint leaves
1 cucumber
1 bunch of green onions
red onion
1 tomato
juice from 2 lemons
olive oil
an abundance of salt
pepper

soak the bulgur wheat according to the package directions. if your package doesn't have directions, pour the grain into a large bowl. if you want, you can squeeze some lemon juice over this and add some salt and pepper. frankly, i don't know if this makes any difference to the finished taste, but i like to do it this way. add 2 cups of boiling water, cover tightly with a piece of plastic wrap and put to the side for about a half hour or so. at this point, you can fluff it up and see if it's absorbed all of the liquid. if you taste it and it is cooked (as in, doesn't have a raw bite anymore), yet there is still liquid in the bottom, drain in a fine mesh sieve and set aside until ready to use.

roughly chop the parsley and mint and put into a large bowl (you could use a food processor for this, but i find that the leaves get processed into almost nothing, and i prefer a bigger chop on them myself). chop up the green onions (both white and green parts), and add to bowl. dice a quarter of the red onion and add to bowl. cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, seed it, roughly chop and add that to the bowl. i like to keep the skin on the cucumber, as i think it keeps longer that way without going mushy. if you've properly cleaned your produce, you shouldn't be squeemish about eating cucumber skin anyway.

stir all of this together, and add a liberal amount of salt, some black pepper, a couple of teaspoons of olive oil, and start adding lemon juice a little at a time. this is where you taste it as you go - do you need more lemon juice? more salt? prefer more red onion to give you more bite? well, chop up some more and add it. you might also feel as though it needs more mint or parsley.

when it's to your liking, e.g. not oily, but properly seasoned, it's ready.

oh, and that tomato? i do like tomato in my tabbouli, but i cannot stand smooshy tomato in my tabbouli. if you plan on serving this right away, chop up a tomato and add that now. if, like me, you plan on eating this for a couple of lunches in a row, don't add the tomato now. bring along a container of tabbouli, some pita wedges, and throw that tomato in your lunch box, and when you're ready to eat at your desk while surfing around on the spice house, fish out your pocket knife and roughly chop the tomato up into the salad. serve in between the pita wedge like a little sandwich.

what, you don't have a pocket knife? i thought everyone had one.

1 comment:

Badger said...

I absolutely love tabbouli, though I've never made it myself (I've always taken the Near East cheaters' route). I, too, like to add tomato, and I love to eat it on Carr's whole wheat crackers. I'm the only one in my house who likes such foods, however, so it means eating an entire bowl of it myself. I may just have to try making my own. Thanks for the inspiration!