Prepare the Lemon-Garlic Vinaigrette (Up to 1 Week Ahead)
Add the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, Middle Eastern Spice Blend, salt, and pepper to a pint-size mason jar. Screw the lid on tightly and shake vigorously for 1 minute or until the lemon juice and oil form an emulsion or a smooth dressing.
Store the lemon-garlic vinaigrette in the fridge until you're ready to dress the tabbouleh or leave it out at room temperature. Give it another vigorous shake just before pouring over the tabbouleh. You can prepare the vinaigrette up to 1 week ahead and store it in the fridge, as well.
Soak the Bulgur to Soften
After rinsing the bulgur to remove any dust, transfer it to a large mixing bowl.Cover the bulgur with 3 cups of boiling water and allow it to soak in the water for 20 minutes.
After the bulgur has soaked for 20 minutes, scoop the a cup of it into a clean kitchen towel set over a colander in the sink or set inside a large bowl. Bring the corners of the towel together and twist the bulb the bulgur creates. Wring out as much water as possible by twisting the towel until you can't twist anymore. Excess water will cause the tabbouleh to be too wet so try to squeeze out as much water as possible.
Dump the bulgur ball into a large mixing bowl and continue squeezing out the rest of the bulgur that remains in the soaking liquid. Discard that liquid extracted from the bulgur.
Make the Tabbouleh
Use your hands to break up any balls of bulgur that are larger than a golf ball. To the bulgur in the mixing bowl, add the diced cucumber, onion, parsley, mint, cilantro, and pomegranate arils (or diced tomatoes).
Give the lemon-garlic vinaigrette a final vigorous shake, then pour it the contents of the mixing bowl. Use salad spoons (or your hands) to toss everything into the vinaigrette, breaking up any large clumps of bulgur as you toss.
After you dress the tabbouleh, cover the bowl and refrigerate the salad for 30 minutes to give the bulgur time to soak up the dressing. The flavors also combine better and create a more balanced taste. Serve tabbouleh on its own or with a few discs of toasted naan.
Swaps and Substitutions:
Couscous can be a substitute for bulgur when making tabbouleh. Prepare the couscous according to the package instructions.
Baharat is a Middle Eastern spice blend that you can use in place of the Middle Eastern Spice Blend listed. Garam Masala is also a substitute for this.
You can omit or reduce the amount of red onion you add to this dish.
Curly parsley is a good substitute for the flat-leaf parsley.
Double the amount of parsley for a truly Levantine Tabbouleh.
Non-Vegan add-ins: stir in crumbled feta, crumbled chèvre, crumbled ricotta salata, or toss in diced, grilled chicken, lamb, or fish.
Vegan add-ins: sprinkle kalamata or green olives or toasted, chopped pistachios or walnuts into the tabbouleh.
Tips and Techniques:
The lemon-garlic vinaigrette can be used as a dressing for other salads, or as a marinade for chicken, fish, or shellfish.
Since tabbouleh tastes better the longer it sits assembled, I recommend making it early on the day you plan to serve it. That way, the bulgur has time to soak up the lemon-garlic vinaigrette and the other flavors in the salad.
I recommend using your hands to toss the tabbouleh together since it allows you to break up the bulgur even more.
Tabbouleh is a cold salad. You can serve it while the bulgur is still warm, but, again, it tastes more interesting when it's been allowed to chill.
Store tabbouleh in a covered container in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days. Be sure to stir the tabbouleh before you serve it since the dressing likes to settle at the bottom of the container.
Don't freeze tabbouleh. The cucumbers in tabbouleh contain too much water and grow very soggy if you freeze them which will water down the tabbouleh.