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.
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!!