The Joys of Parsley: Tabouleh
One of the many things I love about my husband Munir is his cooking ability. Growing up with a Lebanese father, Munir has six or seven staple dishes that are simply spectacular. (It was only after tasting my father-in-law's food that I realized how amazing Lebanese food can be; the watered-down versions in American supermarkets are nothing in comparison.) And Munir's favorite dish is tabouleh. A salad made from parsley and bulghur wheat that originated in the Lebanese mountains, you'll see it on almost every Lebanese table as part of a mezze (small-plate meal). No visit from my father-in-law is complete without bowls and bowls of tabouleh, served at dinner. I also love to spoon some over scrambled eggs in the morning.) And I discovered recently that it's a perfect potluck dish in California: dairy and nut-free, the vegetarians and vegans go wild for it. And it only takes about 30 minutes to make from start to finish.
What makes this tabouleh recipe different from any "Americanized" version is the parsley to bulghur ratio. Traditionally, the parsley is the dominant flavor with the bulghur wheat acting as a background note. My husband's version in bursting with fresh Italian parsley, mint, and late-summer tomatoes. The classic way to serve this dish is with Romaine lettuce leaves, which act as a scoop, but fresh pita bread is wonderful, too.
HADDAD FAMILY TABOULEH
3 cups finely chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley (about 2 large bunches)
1/4 cup finely chopped mint
3 finely chopped scallions (white and green parts)
2 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped into small cubes
1/2 cup bulghur wheat
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Romaine lettuce leaves, for serving (optional)
Prepare the bulghur: pour the bulghur in a bowl and cover with hot water. Let soak for at least 10 minutes.
In a separate large bowl, combine the parsley, mint, scallions, and tomatoes. Mix well. Add the lemon juice and olive oil. Toss and add 1/4 cup of the bulghur. Mix and taste; you might want to add the remaining bulghur or you make like it as is. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Note: Be sure to thoroughly wash and dry the herbs before chopping them.