It’s been awhile since my last blog ( about 3 weeks) so I want to finish my Middle Eastern theme and share with you one of my favorite Saturday afternoon lunch or late night meal (if you will) that makes me feel whole and earthy at the same time. I enjoy it by itself stuffed in pita bread or on a plate with fresh prepared hummus, Greek salad and grape leaves with spring or sparkling water infused with fresh squeezed lemon juice and pomegranate juice and I feel good. What am I talking about? The most simplest dish that you can make that’s cheap, healthy and you want gain 5 lbs. after consuming. It’s Tabbouleh to most or Tabouli to others depending on the region Lebanon, Turkey or Armenia.
Tabbouleh (Arabic: تبولة tabūlah; also tabouleh or tab(b)ouli) is a Levantine Arab salad traditionally made of bulgur, tomatoes, cucumbers, finely chopped parsley, mint, onion, and garlic and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt, although there are various other variations such as using couscous instead of bulgur.
Traditionally served as part of a mezze in the Arab world, tabbouleh was adopted by Cypriots, variations of it are made by Turks and Armenians, and it has become a popular ethnic food in Western cultures.
In Lebanon, tabbouleh is commonly scooped onto lettuce leaves from a large bowl and eaten. People in the United States may eat tabbouleh with a fork or spoon or use it as a dip for vegetables or pita bread. It also goes well with falafel, stuffed grape leaves, hummus, or any other Middle Eastern or Mediterranean menu items. The herbs included in tabbouleh frequently include scallions, mint, parsley, and tomato. Lemon juice, salt, and black pepper are the most traditional seasonings, sometimes supplemented with cinnamon, allspice, or other spices.
A basic recipe for tabbouleh can be found below, but the dish is amenable to creative variation. For example, though garlic is not a traditional ingredient, many cooks enjoy adding it to tabbouleh. Another interesting option is a bit of pepperoncini juice to add a little spice. The main ingredient, bulgur wheat, can usually be found at Middle Eastern or health food markets, and it is typically inexpensive. If more than one grade is available, go with the finest for the best tabouleh.
To feed four to six guests, begin with a cup of finely chopped bulgur wheat in a large glass dish. Pour a cup and a half of boiling water on it, and let the mixture sit for 30 minutes. Next, use a spoon to mix in 1/3 cup lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Chill covered in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
To finish up your tabbouleh, add two bunches of parsley, four scallions, two tomatoes, and about five mint leaves, all as finely chopped as possible. Return it to the refrigerator for another hour – not more – and it’s ready to serve. You can add extra lemon juice, a bit of olive oil, or anything else you like just before serving.
I became acquainted with tabbouleh several years ago while working as a Store Chef at Andronico’s Market in Albany, California. As learned to make it from a fellow chef I was intrigued with the process of taking a simple grain like wheat bulgur, soaking it in water for a couple of hours and chopping and dicing the fresh aromatic parsley, mint and diced tomatoes with there liquid and blending them with the soft bulgur and adding lemon juice, olive oil with salt and pepper to taste it made me admire and respect this simple dish. And once you taste it after its properly made you fall in love with it instantly, hands down or up for surrender. Ethnic dishes such as this must be made the traditional way, no ifsn ands or buts. No spin offs, tweaks or off the wall version of culinary adventure. Just K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid) for those who don’t know the phrase. This drives my point. Ethic foods are to be celebrated, respected and most of all made in the simplest format according to traditional recipe and processes by the people and culture it represents. No american or gringo version, not adding ingredients that have nothing to do with the dish or the culture itself. With all the recipes and cookbooks on the internet and bookstore why do people only buy the latest or hottest culinary or foodie personality’s take on Italian, Greek, Asian or African cuisine and have know roots, cultural understanding or respect to the people behind the cuisine? Its very puzzling to me. Why not go to a used book store or shop on-line for a real authentic cookbook on your favorite cuisine or a cuisine that you would like to explore and learn, Read through the pages and learn about the author and the world as it relates to food, history, culture and cooking. How it makes them feel, what inspires them when they think about food. The memories of family celebrations as a child, the importance of defining family, their heritage and their cultural traditions. You will then find yourself walking on the pages with them learning, relating and exploring the world of food, family and fellowship through their mind therefore relating to people on a higher level of love, acceptance and appreciation. It has been said when you dine with a person and their family you become a part of them forever. I don’t know who said that (or maybe it was my own I just thought of), but you become tied to them instantly and you will never forget the experience. An experience that gives you peace and the ability to be transparent. If you don’t believe me go to a wedding or family festivity of someone you know whose ethnicity is different than yours. You will learn more about life in one evening than ten years of study of that family. Long lasting memories will be instilled in you for years to come. So let’s celebrate Tabbouleh. It is and will forever be the appetizer, dish, meal and detox salad to all who will take the time to savor it. And don’t forget the pita bread!
Until next time!
Here’s a traditional recipe that you can try:
By the way here’s some local places around Atlanta that has some great tabbouleh:
Two of my local favorites:
Emory/North Decatur location is well know amongst Emory college students
Midtown across from City Hall East