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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tabouleh/Tabouli - A Parsley and Bulgur Wheat Salad.

Tabouleh is a wonderful salad. It is mainly made of bulgur wheat and parsley. This is the only dish I have come across where parsley plays the role of a main ingredient. Now, the very first time I heard the description, I thought that the parsley would over power the rest of the ingredients and it maybe on the more astringent side. Unfortunately I let my preconcieved notions get the better of me and I didn't order the dish. I actually came across it when I ordered a "Mediterranean Platter" at a local Mediterranean/Greek restaurant. Of course, I tasted all the different components on the platter like the falafel, dolmas, hummus and a wonderful green salad. And I loved the salad!! So, I asked our server what it was and to my surprise she said it was tabouleh. Ever since then it has become a regular feature on my plate whenever we visit the restaurant.

Now, in the variations of taboleh/tabouli that I have eaten, I have noticed that the bulgur wheat proportion is significantly less compared to that of the parsley. Some versions have tomatoes that have been added and some had small pieces of cucumber or onions or a combination thereof. The dressing always seems to be simple and lemon based and the parsley is the dominant ingredient. However, when I made it, I decided to increase the quantity of the bulgur wheat so that I could serve this as a complete meal and wouldn't need to cook too many additional dishes. So, you can scale back on the proportion of the bulgur wheat if you want to keep it on the light side or add more if you want to make a hearty meal out of it.

1 cup bulgur wheat
2 cups water
2 cups of parsley, chopped finely
1/2 onion, chopped finely
1/2 cucumber, peeled and finely diced (optional)
2 green onion stems including the onion portion, finely diced (optional)
salt to taste
1 large lemon or 2 small lemons, juiced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
black pepper, to taste

Heat  the water till it is at a rolling boil and pour over the bulgur wheat. Make sure the the wheat is submerged and then cover and keep aside for about 15-20 minutes. The wheat should be cooked through and fluffy. If there is excess water, drain it and keep aside. Make sure that the onions, green onions and cucumber are finely diced and all about the same size pieces. Discard the stems of parsely and finely chop the leaves. Mix all the vegetables and the cooked bulgur wheat together. Season this with some salt and mix well. Then in a bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and oil to form an emulsion. Add black pepper and additional salt as needed to this. Pour some of the dressing over the mixed salad and toss all the ingredients together. Taste and add more dressing as needed. It is important to taste,  and not pour all the dressing into the salad so that you don't end up adding too much and over-dressing it. It is best to make it at least an hour before serving and let it sit in the fridge for about an hour so that the ingredients will get time to mix well. If serving fresh, you may need additional dressing on hand.

Bulgur wheat is pre-cooked wheat, hence it is not necessary to cook it for a long time. You may
even have instructions on the packet to soak it in cold water for about 1-2 hours. Drain and let the excess moisture from the wheat drain away, else the dressing will become diluted and not coat the ingredients well. You can cut back the bulgur wheat to half to quantity to make it a lighter salad.
You can use tender stems of parsley, but discard anything that is mature and fibrous.


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