Thursday, June 09, 2005

It's STILL Too Darned Hot--Time for Tabbouleh

We are unabashedly non-Atkins/South Beach in our house. The Man grew up in a Filipino American home--in other words, lots of rice with meals. And  I grew up Ashkenazi Jewish--meaning rice was a little side dab on the plate,  but there were lots of other carbs. Potatoes, pastas (back then mostly spaghetti) and breads. Glorious, glorious breads.
So we've never been into low-carbs, and now the diet pendulum seems to be swinging back our way. The emphasis now is on GOOD carbs. Whole grains.
One of these whole grains is bulghur wheat. You can find this in supermarkets, health food stores or ethnic groceries that carry Indian and/or Middle Eastern groceries. Sometimes it is labeled as bulghur, sometimes as "cracked fine wheat". It is the basic ingredient in a marvelous cold salad, tabbouli. (Also spelled "tabbouleh" and a few other ways)
I had never tried making tabbouli, so last summer I bought a basic mix in the grocery store.
(Look in the health food, or ethnic food section for these if you don't find it with rice mixes.)

We tried it and I loved it. And making your own tabbouli is even better!
It's a snap to make. No cooking required. Just add water to the bulghur and let it stand. Drain it, add your seasonings and let it chill for best flavor.
I have been known to come home for lunch, quick soak some bulghur, add a few seasonings and pop it into the fridge to chill, then add the rest of the fixings at dinner time. It's a godsend to busy parents and other "desperate" cooks!
Tabbouli has endless variations.  I had some recently at a party that came from a Lebanese restaurant. It was very green, with more parsley than bulghur, which it seems is the common way to make it in Lebanon. A recent recipe in Cooking Light  magazine included chickpeas and crumbled feta cheese to make it a meal in itself. A recipe in one of the Barefoot Contessa books suggests adding roast chicken.
 It's delicious as a side dish for salmon or other fish. Chicken or lamb are especially good with it too.
So here's a basic recipe, which you can vary endlessly.  I still check the recipe to remind myself of the basics, but nowadays I don't even measure the seasonings. I add them, taste it, and add more mint, parsley, etc as needed. Of course, the Man always wants me to add more GARLIC.........
Eat, enjoy, and stay cool. Oh, and keep repeating to yourself "whole grains are healthy" so you'll remember you can enjoy this without guilt..........
BASIC TABBOULI
FASTEST PREPARATION METHOD:
Place 2 cups bulghur wheat in a LARGE bowl (it expands,and you add stuff so use a 2 quart bowl at least!)
Pour 4 cups BOILING water over the bulghur. Let sit about 15-20 minutes, then drain thoroughly.
Add ingredients as listed below.
MY USUAL METHOD:
Place wheat and water in the bowl, but just use cold water. Let sit 1 hour, then drain.
ADD  (But vary for your taste!)
2 diced tomatoes (or lots of diced cherry/grape tomatoes)
2 cloves (or more, of course!) minced garlic
1 chopped onion (we like to use red or other sweet onions)
1 bunch chopped parsley (fresh is better, but lots of dried parsley will do)
6-8 chopped mint leaves  (again, dried will work fine if no fresh is available)
Mix well.
Dressing:  1/2 cup olive oil (use any you like, but plain olive oil from Trader Joe's works for us!)
                1/3 cup  lemon juice
Mix again and taste. You can correct the seasonings, but I'd suggest chilling it for at least 1 hour first. The flavors really change when it's cold.
Be sure to cover this when it's in the fridge. It travels well, so it's great for work or a picnic!

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