Tabbouleh is one of those dishes that usually loses its identity when it crosses the oceans. In the Middle East, it is an herb salad with a little bit of bulghur wheat for texture. In the United States, it usually becomes a soggy bulghur salad with a sad speck of parsley for garnish.
The star ingredients in tabbouleh are the parsley and mint, seasoned with plenty of olive oil and lemon juice. The herbs need to be washed, scrupulously dried, and then finely minced. The easiest way to mince them is gather the leaves in a tight bunch and slice as thinly as possible, then go back and forth over them on the board with a rocking motion. In the picture above, they actually aren’t minced quite finely enough; I should have gone a little farther.
Please don’t skip the step of wringing the soaked bulghur out in a dish towel and then chilling it briefly. If it is wet or hot it will ruin the tabbouleh.
Serve this up with a Middle Eastern feast of hummus, baba ghanouj, falafel, and lots of pita, or stuff it in a pita sandwich.
Vegetarian and vegan (try cooked quinoa for gluten-free?)
- 1/2 cup fine bulghur wheat
- 1 cup boiling water
- 4 bunches flat-leaf parsley
- 2 bunches mint
- 2 roma tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
- 1/2 cup peeled, seeded, and finely diced cucumber
- 6 tablespooons thinly sliced green onions (white and light green parts only)
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- juice of 1 lemon
- In a wide, shallow bowl, pour the boiling water over the bulghur wheat and quickly stir. Cover with plastic wrap or another bowl. Allow to stand 10 minutes. Drain off excess water, then squeeze very dry in a dish towel. Put the bulghur in a bowl, fluff with a fork, and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes until no more than barely warm.
- Meanwhile, remove the stems from the parsley and mint. Wash the leaves thoroughly and dry them completely. A salad spinner works well for this. Mince them finely as described above.
- Fluff the bulghur again and toss it with the herbs. Add the tomatmoes, cucumber, green onions, salt, olive oil and lemon juice and toss thoroughly. Taste and add more salt, olive oil, or lemon juice as needed. It should be quite well dressed and piquant, but not sitting in a puddle of dressing.