It was in the afternoon break between Yom Kippur services the other day when my stomach growled for tabbouleh after sundown. I usually hit a market on the way home for items to donate to a shelter (my congregation traditionally collects these at the end of the Day of Atonement), so I also gathered the ingredients I didn’t have as well.
The trouble was finding a recipe that fit the tastes in my memory. What follows is more than usual my choices, but it is based on a Mark Bittman recipe.
The amounts below are for pot-luck — the traditional Levantine salad was a hit at the synagogue’s break-the-fast that evening — and makes 7-8 cups, so up to 16 servings. It’s easily halved for home.
- 1 cup bulgur wheat, preferably medium or coarse grind
- 3 cups boiling water
- 1 pound fresh tomatoes, perhaps 3-4 Romas
- 12 oz. cucumber, about 3 small or 1 large
- 3-4 green onions or scallions
- 1 bunch fresh parsley, curly or flat-leafed
- 1/4 cup lime or lemon juice, fresh or bottled
- 2-3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (optional)
- 1-2 Tablespoons dried mint, preferably a combination of spearmint and peppermint
- Salt and ground black pepper
- Place the bulgur in a medium mixing bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Soak about 30 minutes.
- Cut the tomatoes into 1/2- to 1-inch pieces and place in a large mixing bowl, including the juice etc.
- Peel or partially peel the cucumbers — some peel left on the cukes is nice for color contrast — and cut in half longways. If seeds are well-defined and hard, scoop out and discard. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces and add to the tomatoes.
- Trim green onions and cut into 1/4-inch slices — it will come to about 1/2 cup — and place in the big bowl.
- Remove thicker stems and yellow or wilted leaves from the parsley then rough-chop. That makes about 2 cups packed. Stir into the big bowl.
- To the big bowl, add the citrus juice, optional olive oil, dried mint and 1/2 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Stir the dressing ingredients into the vegetables.
- Carefully drain the water from the bulgur, perhaps using a fine-mesh strainer. (The water can be reserved for later use in a soup.)
- Add the bulgur to the large bowl and mix everything thoroughly. Taste to check for seasoning, adding more salt or pepper if needed, maybe more citrus juice.
The tabbouleh does not need to rest, to “marry the flavors,” but served immediately. Leftovers can be covered and refrigerated, used within a few days.
- Don’t process the parsley into lawn-mower much or it really will taste like grass.
- Make this a whole-meal salad by adding 2 cups of drained, cooked beans, which should be on the firmer (not mushy) side, for instance 1 can of garbanzos to be quasi-traditional but someday I’ll add adzuki or other small red beans for color and texture.
- If you have fresh mint, about 1 cup of leaves loosely packed is the measure. My garden’s was too scraggly, while our locally owned natural food store has top quality dried mints sold inexpensively in bulk.
- Sorry, dried parsley absolutely will NOT work.
- The olive oil can be omitted for fat-free dining. It’s an authentic taste and mouth-feel but not necessary to tabbouleh.
- Taste a little of each cucumber before adding to the big bowl. Sometimes there’s a very bitter one, and it should be discarded.