June 4, 2009

Tabbouleh Recipe

I love this stuff. The Levantine salad that was ubiquitous at summer gatherings in my youth. When people's gardens are giving up tomatoes and the parsley is plentiful, it's time to make tabouleh!

When I encountered parsley at restaurants, it was always in little sprigs on a plate as a garnish. It always gave me the impression that it was an herb that grew in small amounts. A few years ago when we harvested shopping bags full of the stuff from our garden, it started to dawn on me why people turned it into its own salad.

When I wanted to make this myself, Maggie pointed me to a recipe we had from a good book that my family sometimes uses. I stayed up late one night preparing this for folks at work, and it just wasn't flavorful enough. As a salad, I think some people expect the stuff to fade into the background. I want my salad to be worth eating as a main dish if necessary. So I have adjusted the ingredients and cranked up the flavor. You can listen to the song while you make it.

Tabbouleh Salad


3/4 cup dry burghul (bulghur wheat)
2 large bunches of parsley, rinsed and chopped (approximately 4 cups when chopped)
1 cup fresh mint, chopped (or 3/4 cup dried mint)
1 bunch of scallions/green onions, chopped (6-8 scallions)
1 small onion chopped
4 plum tomatoes, diced small (or 2 large tomatoes)
2/3 cup lemon juice
3 tsp salt (or to taste)
pepper to taste (1/2 tsp)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Rinse the burghul and squeeze it dry. Place in a large bowl.

Grab your parsley bunches by the leaves and chop off most of the stems. It's OK if you leave some, but it's best ro reduce the amount of stem in the salad.
Chop the parsley, mint, scallions and onion. I pulse them in a food processor in small batches. Be careful not to over-process. Pulse until it's chopped to a medium amount.
Add to the bowl, then add the lemon juice.
Toss to mix.
Add 2 tsp of the salt, mix and taste. If necessary, add the remaining tsp.
Add pepper to taste.
Add cinnamon and toss.
Just before serving, add the olive oil and toss. Some folks use up to 1/2 cup. I actually think you can get away with 1/4 cup, but for company I would use 1/3 cup.

Burghul (bulghur) can be found at middle-eastern markets, and may also be found at health food stores. I plan to experiment with high fiber burghul.

Gluten-free variation:

I hear cooked quinoa makes a good salad. I have not tried this myself yet, but I expect that a similar amount of quinoa, cooked and then cooled would stand in fine for the burghul. I may experiment with quinoa salads myself just because I hear it's a good source of nutrients.

Posted by James at June 4, 2009 11:35 AM
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Yes, quinoa works very well, and is tasty and nutritious. I've also done similar things with millet. I used to date someone who couldn't have gluten.

I presume you mean 3/4 cup of dry bulghur; there's a word missing.

Posted by: Barry Leiba at June 4, 2009 4:08 PM

Aha - yes. 3/4 cup. That's rather important, thanks!

I'm excited that there are good substitutes. Or maybe is my grumbling tummy talking; everything sounds delicious today.

Posted by: James at June 4, 2009 4:11 PM

I hear millet might be good, too. (My sister avoids whole millet because "it's birdseed.")

Posted by: Julie at June 4, 2009 6:46 PM

I was wondering, as I read the ingredients, if I could sub rice for the wheat. Quinoa does make a tasty salad, so maybe I'll try subbing that.

Speaking of quinoa, here's a salad we like:

Quinoa with Corn, Scallions, and Mint

A note: We use Ancient Harvest brand quinoa and cook it according to the directions on the package rather than those in the recipe above.

Posted by: Patti M. at June 4, 2009 8:51 PM

You could sub rice for the burghul, but I would only do that if you're going to eat it all that day. I think the rice might get soggy. But I think it would still be pretty yummy.

Posted by: James at June 4, 2009 10:29 PM

I read that some people do substitute millet. I have no experience with that, either. But, truly, the burghul only contributes some texture and starch. It's slightly chewy, but grainy. I imagine millet would be similar.

It shouldn't matter whether birds like it. :)

Burghul is parboiled cracked wheat. The millet might have to be prepped somehow, and possibly cracked.

Posted by: James at June 4, 2009 10:32 PM

Millet is pretty delicate. I think it cracks when you toast it, or maybe even if you just boil it.

I've made something with millet before, but for the life of me, I don't remember what. I guess I didn't like it enough to do it again, but on the other hand it wasn't memorably difficult or yucky, ether.

Posted by: Julie at June 5, 2009 12:00 PM

I'm not sure I'd like burghul in anything other than tabbouleh. I imagine it's pretty bland.

Posted by: James at June 5, 2009 12:19 PM

Burghul is in kibbeh, of course.

Posted by: Maggie at June 5, 2009 1:08 PM

Oh, right.

I guess I mean that I don't know if I would like it alone. You could use it as a stuffing for something, but in a porridge-type recipe or like oatmeal it would not be good.

Actually, it would probably be similar to cream of wheat.

Posted by: James at June 5, 2009 2:19 PM

I used bulghur in place of barley in soup once, I think. It wasn't bad. I believe I also used it in a recipe that turned lentil soup into a "lentil loaf." I don't know if that sounds unappealing, but it was delicious.

Posted by: Julie at June 5, 2009 3:37 PM

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