Time for tabbouleh

I'd forgotten about tabbouleh. Not entirely, of course, but I couldn't remember the last time I enjoyed this popular Middle Eastern salad. When a friend asked if I could bring a nut-free, dairy-free dish to her annual Fourth of July pool party (nut-free and dairy-free to prevent a couple of small guests from going into anaphylactic shock), tabbouleh came immediately to mind. It fits the bill perfectly: cracked wheat enlivened with generous amounts of parsley and mint, dressed with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil, all combined with flawless summer tomatoes.

I made a big batch of the stuff the morning of July 4. A true Lebanese tabbouleh contains far more parsley than grain, but I cheated; I tired of chopping bunches of herbs long before I reached the 5 cups required. The result was still delicious. So delicious that I made it again for dinner.

My friend Trish and I stopped by the grocery store post-pool party to pick up salmon fillets, lettuce, assorted snacks — visions of a big, beautiful meal in our heads. As the day wore on and we settled down with the first five episodes of Big Love on DVD (because I really need to get hooked on another cable TV show on a channel I don't subscribe to), Trish and I agreed that grazing in front of the TV was ideal. The salmon stayed in the refrigerator and I made a second, smaller batch of tabbouleh, brought out flatbread, cheese, and my new favorite olive, the Castellano. Spread out on the coffee table, the food was ideal. Light, great at room temperature, and easy.

Looks like tabbouleh will be a mainstay this summer.

Tabbouleh Salad
Serves 4

1 cup bulgur
2 cups water
1 bunch scallions, chopped, including part of the green top
2-3 bunches flat-leafed parsley, finely chopped
1 bunch mint, finely chopped
3 medium tomatoes, diced
2 lemons, freshly juiced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Place the bulgur in a heatproof bowl. Bring the water to a boil, then pour it over the bulgur and give it a quick stir. Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to sit for 30-45 minutes.

While the cracked wheat rehydrates, clean and chop the herbs, scallions and tomatoes.

When the bulgur has softened, strain to remove any extra water, then fluff with a fork. Add the chopped vegetables and herbs, then dress with lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Tabbouleh is best made an hour or two before you plan to serve it, giving flavors a chance to meld and improve. Serve at room temperature.

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