Hey you guys!
Here’s another follow up to the Lebanese Lover’s Night I had a few weeks ago. Ha HA!!! I totally didn’t call it that when I told my husband, or when we subsequently invited our dear friends, Jen and Adam, to come over. That would’ve been weird. No, instead, it was just labeled, “Come over because Marta’s on some Lebanese kick all of a sudden and we have too much food.” Lebanese Lover’s Night would’ve sounded much cooler, though, wouldn’t you agree?
I went hunting for bulgur after deciding that I wanted to try to recreate authentic Lebanese kibbeh. The hunt was annoyingly prolonged by the fact that very few grocers- like, none of them- in my town (or any town within a 20 mile radius) knew what bulgur was, let alone carried it. After explain to them what it was (dried, cracked wheat), and being told they don’t have it; I had to drive 45 minutes to Austin to get my paws on a bag of it.
*Segway: Why is it that we will sit there and explain, in depth, to someone what something is when in our heart of hearts we know they won’t have it?!?! It’s a total waste of time, leaves you feeling completely defeated and highly miffed. Here’s a takeaway: if you ask the head of the department if they have said item, and the response is, “What’s that?” Just walk away. They don’t have it, because if they did, they would know it by name. That’s free. Love me for it.*
Long story not so short, I succeeded in obtaining my bulgur and dragged myself back home to accomplish my Lebanese dining mission.
I have been a huge fan of tabbouleh from the first taste. There’s something very vibrant and verdant about the dish. I just felt like I was eating “clean”. But not, like, a vague eating “clean”, which no one even knows the meaning of anyway, even though they swear they’re doing it. Literally, eating “clean”, e.g. not dirty- like, if a clean room or house could be a dish- this is what it would taste like…I’ve completely lost you, haven’t I? I think I’ve lost myself, actually.
Suffice it to say, I think it’s a healthy, pure, simple dish that tastes really good. You back? Good. Me too.
The one annoyance I have about the way it’s prepared here in the states is that seems to be heavily-laden with bulgur- or even *GASP* couscous! Tabbouleh is, fundamentally, a parsley salad with a small amount of bulgur, or rather, it should be. I’ve found that even chefs of Middle Eastern descent serve it in the former style because they find a need to appeal to the American palate. I think it’s a travesty. The original version is such a special dish as it is. I believe that the thought of eating a “parsley salad” may be off-putting to some whom have never experienced the deep complexities of the dish as a whole. So, I never describe it to those to whom I serve it. “Just try it,” is what I tell them when asked what it is. They try it, they swoon, I have a convert. I change the world. I’m on a mission to revive the parsley in tabbouleh. Or, just get more people to enjoy it the way it was intended: sans all that filler grain. It’s actually funny- I read somewhere that women in the Middle East, where tabbouleh originated, where put out by the dish because it lacked meat. They thought the creators and those who followed were trying to cheap out on the most important course in their cuisine. They turned up their nose at it; much like I’m turning up my nose at those who are heavy-handed on the bulgur. So, look at that! I’m in good company.
My version adds to the herbiness (totally a word, don’t look it up) a hit of cilantro to brighten it up even further. The use of pomegranate seeds adds crunch and an almost floral note to liven it up further. The pom arils may be omitted or substituted with an equal amount of diced Roma tomatoes. My Middle Eastern 8 Spice mix adds a deeper level of flavor that rounds out this already fantastic dish. You can omit it, but it truly will change your life if you take the time to use it. Maybe not change your life– maybe change your dinnertime? Or at least the time you take to eat anything that it’s in. Definitely that.
What is your favorite “ethnic” food? Share with me below!
- 1½ cups boiling water
- ⅓ cup bulgur
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ cup lemon juice
- 1 tsp Middle Eastern 8 Spice mix
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups parsley, chopped
- ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
- ¼ cup mint leaves, chopped
- 1 cup pomegranate arils
- 1 english (hothouse) cucumber, diced
- 1 bunch green onions, sliced
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Rehydrate the bulgur by placing it in a large bowl and pouring the boiling water over it. Allow it to sit while you prepare the remaining ingredients, or for at least 30 minutes.
- In a small jar with lid (a Mason jar works great for this), combine the garlic, lemon juice, spice mix, and olive oil together, secure the lid and shake vigorously to create a dressing. Set aside.
- Into a large bowl, combine the parsley, cilantro, mint leaves, pomegranate seeds, cucumber and green onions. Toss lightly.
- Once the soaking time is complete, stain the water from the bulgur. Transfer the bulgur to a clean kitchen towel or piece of cheesecloth. Squeeze the excess water out by bringing up the corners of the cloth to meet in the middle. Twist the bundle until water no longer drips from it. This is key to preventing a soapy tabbouleh.
- Add the bulgur to the herb mixture. Shake the dressing once again to combine and pour it over the salad. Stir well to fully coat the ingredients in the dressing.
- Season lightly with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before stirring and testing for seasoning once again.
- Serve as a side or atop endive leaves.