Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tabouleh - A Lebanese Parsley, Bulgur Wheat, Mint, Onion & Tomato Salad

This tabouleh was inspired by my recent essay 'A Chance Encounter with Ed Hyder's Mediterranean Marketplace' post. I have made tabouleh plenty of times in the past, but never from a recipe. For the purpose of this post, I had to backtrack and come up with one. I usually add the basic ingredients and adjust lemon, mint leaves and salt for flavor as I go. I adjust oil as I go for consistency's sake. I have different quirks, I call them quirks, but they are sound advice that I think help achieve the best tabouleh.
Tip #1 Herbs: First and foremost I wouldn't process the herbs in a food processor. The blade will bruise them. I like to finely chop them with a sharp knife. As I chop, I try to roll them gently,the best I can, and slice them, as if you are rolling basil leaves for chiffonade. Though this is my number one advice, let's backtrack. Tip #2 Herbs: I like to wash the herbs and spin them in a salad spinner. I like my my herbs dry so excess water won't muddle the vinaigrette. 
Tip #3 Herbs: I like the thicker bottom stems of the parsley removed. The upper stems of the parsley leaves are on the tender side and edible. With the mint I only use the leaves, I find the mint stems to be tough and unpleasant to the palette. It's easier to chiffonade the mint leaves like basil without the stems.
Tip #4: I like to keep the salad minus the tomatoes over night in the refrigerator to soften and marinate before serving. You could easily make salad ahead even two days in advance. Tip #5 Herbs: I normally do not like giving measurements for herbs. If I give it in cups, is it tightly packed or lightly packed? Who will measure the rate of pressure one person applies vs another per packed cup?! Do you see the photo below titled storm? That was one bunch parsley. I used two of those. Yes, a very large bunch. Also, do you see the mint sprigs to the right in the photo below? I used leaves from 6 of those sprigs. I did succumb and added approximate cup measurements. Tip #6 Herbs: I also like to use flat leaf Italian parsley vs curly. I haven't used curly parsley in decades. It is my personal preference. I will be darned, but not only do I not like the shape and texture of curly, but I also am convinced it tastes different than Italian parsley.While we are on the subject of shapes and textures I dislike, I also dislike fusili, but that is a separate post.
Bulgur wheat is considered whole grain by the USDA and is parboiled and dried, unlike cracked wheat that is a crushed raw grain. Most bulgur wheat is made of durum wheat, though most in the US are from white wheat. It also has different size grinds/granulations, fine #1, medium #2, coarse #3 and extra coarse #4. Often in the store you will find pre packaged bulgur wheat also labeled as cracked wheat. It is very confusing as cracked wheat isn't parboiled. I buy it at the bulk section and medium granulation is best suited for making tabouleh. Bulgur is high in protein and dietary fibers. Widely popular in Middle Eastern cuisines, it is a main ingredient in kibbeh and tabouleh among other dishes. In Turkish and Armenian cuisines you will find a red tabouleh made with tomato paste or sauce. The tabouleh origin is in Lebanon and Syria.
Calm
Tip#1 Tomatoes: I like to use Roma tomatoes in my tabouleh. They keep their shape well when diced. You most certainly can use any you any type of tomato you have at home. Tip #2 Tomatoes: do not seed the tomatoes, the seeds will help moisten and soften the parsley further. Though Romas do not have an enormous amount of seeds, I like the touch of added moisture from the tomatoes. Tip #3 Tomatoes: I like to add the tomatoes just before serving. I find wilted day old refrigerated tomatoes unappetizing in any salad. Tip #1 Lemons: I like freshly squeezed lemons. I find store bought lemon juice has a more concentrated taste to it even if it is not concentrated. If you use store bought, start with 1/2 the amount called for in this recipe and adjust from there.
Storm
Tabouleh

Ingredients:
2 large bunches of flat leaf Italian parsley (approx loosely packed 6 cups), bottom stems removed, finely chopped
Leaves of 4 mint sprigs (approx loosely packed 1/4 cup), finely chopped
Little less than 1/2 cup bulgur wheat (approx 2 1/2 oz)
1 1/4 boiling water
1 small onion, diced
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
Juice of 2 medium juicy lemons (approx. 1/2 cup)
6 tablespoons mild olive oil or a mix of both olive oil and canola
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste

Place bulgur wheat in a medium bowl and pour boiling water over it. Cover with saran wrap and let sit for 20-30 minutes for the water to be absorbed, while working on assembling the rest of the ingredients.
Add parsley, mint, onion, lemon, oil and salt and mix well. Check if bulgur wheat is puffed and ready. It has a chewy texture when ready, drain from excess water and add to parsley and mix. Let sit in the fridge overnight or two. Add diced tomatoes before serving, mix and enjoy!!

53 comments :

  1. I think people tend to hold back on the amount of lemon juice... but I always add extra because it gives it the zing this dish needs. This looks fabulous, Shulie!

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    1. Thank you. Yep B. People are shy about adding lemon. I saw other recipes with only 50% of the lemon juice I added. I find it gives it a faint lemony flavor but the 1/2 cup gives it the authentic zing it needs,:)Its acidity also helps soften the parsley.

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  2. I love to make tabbouleh in summer, when the herbs in my garden are abundant, and I can pick herbs and tomatoes right outside the kitchen door. Unfortunately, I'll have to wait about 8 months for that!

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    1. I vowed to have my vegetable garden back this summer. Though I find in DC area the herbs and lettuce taste best grown in Spring and Fall. In the Summer they get a bitter edge to them. Luckily we got in the area organic green houses that grown them year round.

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  3. This is by far one of my favorite salads ever, my Mom makes it almost once a week when I'm home! And like you said, we rarely make it with a recipe, adding a little of this and that. We don't normally add mint (although traditional), but mix it up with cilantro! I bet with mint it would be great! Must make this for M soon! Gorgeous pics as well dear!

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    1. Aww Nelly you must miss home but now you can start your own traditions with your hubby! :) Cilantro sounds fantastic too!! SO sweet your mom makes it for you almost once a week.:)

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  4. love this type of salad - always so refreshing!! (and so good for you too)

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    1. So true. I was surprised to find out there are proteins in bulgur which makes it an extra added bonus.:)

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    1. Ty Maria. Mine too though haven;t madeit in forever. My hubs was a very happy guy this week with few Mediterranean salads I made.:)

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  6. hat is something I really love! Your bulgur looks wonderful.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. TY so much Rosa. Mine too!:) & you know how much I love snapping shots of raw ingredients! :)

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  7. One of my favorite lunches! Looks wonderful.

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    1. TY. That is exactly what happened we had salads for lunch. That is why I didn't put how many servings per. It all depends if you have it a mezze or more of a main part of your meal.:)

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  8. Great tips! I love the idea of letting the ingredients marinate for a few days, then add tomatoes. I did always notice the the tomatoes do get a bit soggy. I also did not know I could eat some of the stem of the parsley. See we do learn something everyday:-) Hugs, Terra

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    1. Thx Terra. Yep. Even three days...unless you flood the salad with oil which no one wishes to do. Technically you could eat the bottom stems to but they are a tad tougher. Happy you found this post useful my friend!

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  9. I love tabouleh--you've shared so many wonderful tips for ensuring a perfect outcome each time. It's been a very long while since my go at it--I think I'll try your recipe next time, Shulie. The other one is long lost and I really like how lemony this sounds. :)

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    1. TY Jean. Yep definitely got a zing! :)

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  10. Such great details for every aspect of this wonderful salad. My moms' is incredible and I'm very happy when she makes some. And it also is a little of this and that. But she does also add more lemon than I see in other recipes. Now can we talk about what you have against fusilli?;) I'll just tease you ab it on Twitter;) I also prefer Italian parsley:)

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    1. Ooh your mom sounds just like me little of this and little of that. You are a lucky girl having her around to make you tabouleh. Ahahahah about the fusilli, am realizing I misspelled it and shortchanged it, omitted an l. Wanted to fix it but decided against it that is my standing objection and revolt! lol

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  11. Looks so refreshing and delicious. And such a lovely combination of flavors.

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  12. I made my first tabouleh last summer...recipe from Ina Garten. It was way too salty, so I need to try again. Thanks for all the excellent tips...I will definitely use your recipe for the most traditional taste. Thanks, Shulie!

    PS...I look forward to your chocolate ice cream post~

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  13. One of my favorite salads! I love that it has all that wonderful parsley, so good for you!

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  14. Good and healthy fix for salad; the tabouleh is just fascinating!:) I love anything with the word green and salad in it..hehe :D

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  15. I love tabouleh and how refreshing and unique in flavor it is. Normally I am not a huge mint fan, but this dish I just adore. Wonderful pictures and recipe :)

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    1. TY Kiri. Honestly in this dish the mint isn't overwhelming it blends well. Try it. I happen to love mint but I completely understand! :)

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  16. Love how refreshing, light and health tabouleh is!

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    1. I know, right?! I don't know why I didn't make it in awhile?!

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  17. i love the details you gave in making this tabbouleh! going to keep it in mind to use roma tomatoes and chiffonade my herbs! :)

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    1. Yep. Definitely, Junia. Thx for dropping by!! & it's vegan!! :)

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  18. Another of my favorite things and I was very carefully reading through the tips. I think I do the same...only change amounts as per mood and need of the parsley. And I do make the Turkish one (kisir) more often as I like the tomato and the pepper paste in it. Spiced up. I could eat T. day after day w/out getting bored.

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    1. Ahahaha only because you are a friend am going to tell you as much as I love tabouleh, J could eat it every day but it I did I would feel like a cow in a pasture. Not very good for my self image though tabouleh is on the skinny side. lol. When speaking to Ed Hyder, see previous post, he didn't mention pepper paste in the Armenian red tabouleh version. I wonder if it is traditional, Turkishm or you just decided to spice things up? :)

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  19. oh yeah .. i too don;t like curly parsley leaves that much and the mint stem , absolutely NO NO. This dish looks lovely and greats tips you shared out here.

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    1. TY Kankana! :) Maybe, just maybe I would consider curly as a garnish as mentioned below:).

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  20. As always, I love your pictures, Shulie. Beautiful.

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  21. I've had tabbouleh so many times, but I have never made it at home. Don't ask me why:) I think curly parsley is great as a garnish, along with curly kale, but for flavor I also prefer Italian parsley - in Serbia, that's the only kind we had.
    You are so right on limp and lifeless refrigerated cut tomatoes; they are unappetizing and have no place in any dish:)
    I have been on a salad and legume kick lately (I am afraid that kids are going to stage a rebellion the next time I plop the pot of beans on the table:) and this recipe just might nudge me enough to start chopping bunches of parsley (and I have no excuse not to do it - they sell 5 bunches for $1.00 at our local Persian store!)
    BTW, I just returned from visiting my daughter at Berkeley, still brimming with pride:) How is your son doing?

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    1. Hi there Lana, You uys come up with the best adjectives to describe refrigerated diced tomatoes. Limp and some others you can see in the comments above. I was toying with how to describe them best and inspiration didn't quite hit me but thank god for friends! :) Just dropped S off at UMASS two weeks ago. Sending him a care package hopefully today. I can see you glowing. Sounds like a fantastic visit!! :)

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  22. Enjoyed your post very much.

    I share your taste on Italian parsley and I too add tomatoes to salad at last minute.

    Why do you use mild instead of EVOO?

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    1. TY Faye. I meant mild flavored. It seems Lingurian olive oil (thx to Jean above)is EVOO and mild in flavor. I find majority here in the States have overwhelming taste that overtake the dish and not let each ingredient shine ot the entire dish on its own. Awhile back I found a wonderful mild EVOO from Spain at Trader Joe's but they no longer carry it. You are right usually when you see the word mild the assumption is it is not EVOO. I hope this explains it.:)

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    2. Thanks, Shulie, very interesting. I learned to make tabbouleh from a Lebanese woman, and she put in a lot of green onion, and so I like the very fruity kinds of EVOO to balance the onion as well as the generous amount of lemon juice. But I have some mild EVOO too and I will try the salad your way. Such a healthy, delicious dish is certainly worth making often.

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    3. Very interesting version. Will give tabouleh a slightly different flavor profile. I need to track down the history behind tabouleh with regular onions vs green onions. All the Lebanese people I know raise an eyebrow when I quiz them about tabouleh with green onions. My personal preference is with regular onions but I can see how you would wish to balance the green onions with a more fruity EVOO. Fascinating indeed!

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  23. This looks so delicious! Adding it to my “Make this Dish List”

    "Spice it Up"

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  24. Gorgeous looking & sounding tabouleh! Restaurant worthy!
    xo
    http://allykayler.blogspot.com

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  25. This is beautiful and may give my mint a little haircut. Parsley literally litters my yard. They are everywhere...

    Thanks for sharing, Shulie!

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  26. I'm guilty of not enough lemon I think. We make tabbouleh fairly often because we're dip crazy at about 5pm. I'm going to try your recipe and see how it goes.

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  27. What a gorgeous and delightful salad! Love all of that lemony goodness :)

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  28. This is so beautiful Shulie! I would add a little bit of extra lemon too! Thanks for sharing all those great tips!

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  29. I adore bulgur wheat -- i think it's so underused. Always love ordering tabouleh whenever we dine :)

    Gorgeous recipe and thanks for the handy tips!

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