I’ve never been much of a salad person.
Ahem. Let me rephrase that: I’ve never been much of a typical side-salad person, or lettuce salad person. I’ll sometimes eat a side-salad deal – y’know, the kind with iceberg lettuce, a few shredded carrots, maybe a cherry tomato or two, and some dressing – to make myself feel better about the filthy cheesy mess I’ll stuff in my face afterwards. But I don’t actually enjoy the salad as its own entity.
Things get a little better with a salad bar, where I can top different lettuces, and possibly another green if offered (kale or spinach), with other more exciting items, like sunflower seeds, nuts, croutons, cheese, and other veggies and fruits (dried cranberries, cucumbers, etc.). Hey, maybe I can even throw a hard-boiled egg on top! And I do have a weakness for a good Caesar salad, or even a mediocre one. (It’s those anchovies, y’all – so salty and delicious!)
But I don’t necessarily get excited about salad. And again, these salads are usually precursors to delightfully fat-filled meals I’ll eat as my main course, rather than stand-alone sides or even *gasp* meals on their own.
Then, I met the love of my life: tabbouleh. (Sorry, husband.)
It’s not just the fact that I love tabbouleh, or that it comes in so many different forms and proportions of ingredients, depending on who makes it (more on that in a moment). It’s that making and eating tabbouleh, and looking at these different recipes and origins, opened the world to a host of non-lettuce-based salads. (Cucumber and tomato, mixed with tahini! Roasted red pepper, onion and olive oil!) One of the best meals I ate in NYC this past January was a salad sampler at Silvana, a Middle Eastern cafe in Harlem, where I got six salads and dips in little bowls: I literally ate myself stupid and sick, I loved it so hard.
So, I can now say that I am a salad person, if you broaden the definition of salad to its proper size. Woohoo!
But I digress. What, exactly, is tabbouleh, anyway?
Simply put, it’s a parsley salad, usually associated with Middle Eastern cuisine, but can be found in all sorts of places. Depending on who you talk to, or where you get it, some versions even skip the parsley, or replace it with another green. It often contains a grain to bulk it up, such as bulgur or quinoa, and different recipes and regions will vary the amount of grain. Finally, it’ll often contain other summery vegetables, such as tomatoes and cucumbers, all mixed together with oil and lemon juice or vinegar.
My favorite versions contain an ungodly amount of parsley and mint, with a fairly even amount of grain, veggies, and olive oil to balance it out. I purposely grew nine parsley plants on the porch so I could make tabbouleh whenever I want in the summer. Excessive? Maybe. Correct? You betcha.
Tabbouleh a good, fairly filling salad on its own when it has a good amount of whole grain, but I like it more on the side with a protein, like falafel or lamb/seitan pitas. Just thinking about this is making me super hungry.
The recipe I share today has an even blend of parsley, mint, and bulgur for those of you that may not share my, ahem, parsley obsession, but feel free to add more greens and reduce (or even eliminate) the grain. It’s a pretty summery salad, too, and I highly recommend you save it for summer and the peak of summer veggie season. (If I manage to keep parsley and mint growing indoors during the winter, I’ll get you a winter version. Promise.)
And as with any recipe I post here, feel free to increase, decrease, add, or eliminate particular veggies – use what you’ve got from your farmer’s market haul or from your own garden.
Enough of my rambling. Let’s make tabbouleh!
I recommend flat leaf parsley, as opposed to curly-leaf, as it has a better mouthfeel and is easier to combine with the other ingredients.
you will need:
- ½-1 c bulgur wheat
- ¼ c olive oil
- juice from two large lemons (about ¼ c)
- 1-1 ½ tsp kosher salt (I’m a salt girl, and I still like it with just a teaspoon. You do you.)
- 1 c flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 c fresh mint, chopped (you may sub in an equal amount of parsley if you don’t have mint)
- 1 c sliced cherry tomatoes or chopped fresh tomatoes of choice
- ½ c peeled, seeded, and chopped cucumber
- ½ c chopped green onion (white and green parts)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Place the bulgur in a large bowl, and add enough cold water to cover by an inch. Allow to soak for at least 30 minutes to soften. Drain, and add the soaked bulgur back to the bowl.
- Add in the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and mix to combine. Add in the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, parsley, and mint. Stir to combine, and taste and adjust seasoning as needed. You can eat it now, but it benefits from sitting in the fridge for at least an hour before serving, and is even better the next day!