Tabbouleh despite its world fame is one of the Arabic and Middle Eastern recipes that seem to have been lost in the translation. Sure, you can find it on the menu of many restaurants and delis around the globe but what you call tabbouleh may not qualify as tabbouleh here in the Middle East.Here the tabbouleh police have very strict rules when it comes to what goes into tabbouleh and at what proportions. .
Today I am sharing my way of making tabbouleh, one that gets the Middle Eastern tabbouleh police seal of approval Let’s break it down according to ingredients
Parsley is really the star of the show here. If you were to order some tabbouleh in a restaurant or hotel throughout the Middle East or if you were to stop by any lady get together or brunch. The tabbouleh you would get is a salad that is all about the herbs. Actually it is all about parsley. It is not a bulgur salad nor is it your usual vegetable salad. It is all about the parsley.
To make the perfect tabbouleh you would need a lot of parsley. 3-5 big bunches for your average 4 servings of tabbouleh.At first that may seem like an awful lot but you have to remember that tabbouleh police only allow the use of the leaves and the smallest and most tender stalks. The rest of the stalks have to be discarded .
You also need to handle your parsley with care. You don’t want to bruise it during washing or chopping. The idea if to retain as much freshness as possible. To do so you need to:
- Be gentle when you wash the parsley. It is best if you take your bunch of parsley by the stalks and dunk it in a bowl full of water then lift it and shake off the water. Do this 4-5 times or until the water left behind is clear. Then fill a bowl with water and add a 1/4 cup of vinegar and leave the parsley in it for 10 minutes to make sure it is clean all the way through
- When you chop the parsley, use a very sharp knife and basically slice through it. A dull knife will result is bruising of the parsley leaves and this way your parsley will go all mushy. A big no no if you ask the tabbouleh police
The only other herbs allowed in tabbouleh is mint and only in small quantities. You want the added minty freshness without allowing it to over power the parsley. Again you need to be gentle when handling the greens , strip the leaves from the stems and slice them with a sharp knife
Tabbouleh is not a bulgur salad. Bulgar should be used in small quantities to add a bit of texture, color and flavor but that is all. You have a choice between fine and medium bulgur. I personally favor the medium because of the added texture.
Bulgur is rather hard and crunchy so you need to soak it in cold water for 30 minutes and then place it in a strainer for 20 minutes to get rid of the excess water.(You can do this the day before and leave it in the strainer in the fridge) Please don’t use boiling water. The idea is to keep as much texture as possible. Boiling water will make the bulgur mushy.
Tomatoes are your first choice. You can also add cucumbers and spring onions but that’a it. No carrots, peppers or cabbage. You must also remember that parsley is still the star in this salad so any other vegetable are used in small amounts
Spices and dressing
I prefer my tabbouleh dressed with three simple ingredients: olive oil, lemon juice and salt. The tabbouleh police however also allows the addition of sumac, pomegranate molasses and spices including your favorites of pepper, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, cloves and cardamom. I personally feel like the addition of spices over powers the delicate flavors of the tabbouleh but feel free to use them if you like.
Below you will find my recipe for making tabbouleh, one of all time favorite salads. Sure it is time consuming with all the washing and chopping involved but its freshness and unique taste are more than worth the effort. I hope that you will give it a try
4 bunches of Italian Parsley
1/2 to 1small bunch of fresh green mint
2 small cucumber
2-3 medium sized tomatoes
1spring onion (optional)
1/2 cup of Burghul
1/3 to 1/2 cup of quality olive oil
1/3 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
2/3 to1 teaspoon of salt
Soak the bulgur in cold water for 30 minutes and then place it in a strainer for 20 minutes to get rid of the excess water
Rinse all vegetables and let dry, especially the parsley and mint.
Cut stems off parsley then slice it finely with a sharp knife, be patient and don’t bruise it
Cut stems off mint, and finely chop the leaves.
Chop tomatoes into small cubes
Finely chop the cucumber and spring onions if using
Mix the parsley, mint, tomatoes, cucumbers and spring onions
Add the dressing (olive oil, lemon and salt) right before serving.
Toss to combine
Serving and Tips
Once mixed, Tabbouleh gets soggy rather quickly, so it’s best if you mix it immediately before serving.
If you want to prepare your tabbouleh in advance, do the chopping, then place ingredients side by side in a bowl or layer them in a jar with the bulgur at the bottom and the herbs at the top, and put in the fridge. Once ready to serve, add the lemon juice, the olive oil and salt all over the ingredients and then mix lightly with a fork and avoid over-mixing so it doesn’t turn soggy.
Serve your Tabbouleh with romaine lettuce if you wish, the small leaves of the lettuce hearts are usually used to scoop the tabbouleh.
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