Sometimes when winter gets you down there’s just one antidote: good, green living food. I know this flies in the face of the regional / seasonal cuisine movement. But when the days are short nutritional therapy can be a big boost. Few foods are cheerier than a Mediterranean diet – and nothing says “Mediterranean” better than tabouli. It’s a great dish any season at all, but makes a fantastic treat this time of year.
Fresh mint is the tabouli ingredient that’s often hardest to find (and is absolutely essential) but the good thing is, it’s really easy to grow. And once it gets started it’s very hard to kill. So I checked on my little mint garden under the deck steps, and even after several hard freezes there was plenty of green happening. A visit to the grocery store got me everything else I needed.
So here’s my (slightly altered from traditional) tabouli recipe. I promise you it is awesome. There’s a big bowl of it in my refrigerator right now, enough to blow the winter blues away for days. And in case you didn’t know, leftover tabouli makes a killer omelet – especially if you have some good free-range eggs.
Here’s what you need:
One bunch of parsley (washed)
One bunch of fresh mint
Green onions – 5 or 6 should do
Salt and pepper
(And optional but good)
Chick peas (garbanzos)
My hardy mint garden, beaten down by winter but still going.
One fat bunch of parsley provides the rest of the greens (this is just part of a bunch, separated out for cutting). You’ve got to wash parsley well, all those curly leaves can hide bits of dirt. Spin or shake it semi-dry before cutting.
Chop the parsley finely, down into the stems – they’re good and crunchy.
Chop the mint just as fine as the parsley. There should be nearly as much volume of mint as parsley.
Put 1/2 to 2/3 cup of dry bulgur wheat into a bowl. Cover it with an inch of hot water and let it soak (good to microwave it for a couple minutes…)
Chop one bunch (6 or so) of green onions finely and add to the parsley and mint.
Normally you’d be dicing 2 or 3 regular tomatoes – I got these grape tomatoes for half price so used them instead.
Cucumbers are not used for traditional Lebanese tabouli but I like them, they harmonize well with the flavor. I prefer using half of a long seedless one unpeeled, but had a regular one here.
Here’s my major departure from traditional tabouli. Don’t tell anyone, but I sometimes add chick peas. Since hummus and pita bread are often eaten with tabouli I figure it isn’t too big a stretch, plus it makes the end result a meal in itself. I used one can, drained and washed.
By 40 minutes or so the bulgur wheat should be well infused with moisture. Rinse and drain under fresh water before adding it (there should be about 2 strainer lumps like this to result from the original dry amount).
After adding the bulgar wheat pour in about 1/8 cup olive oil and 1-2 squeezed lemons, or 1/4 cup lemon juice. When I don’t have fresh lemons Sicilian lemon juice is the next best thing. Adjust all amounts to your own taste.
Use a good size container for mixing. After everything is in it’s time to use your hands. You can stir with wooden spoons but your hands are the best mixers, they won’t bruise or smash any of the ingredients. IMPORTANT: at this point add sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
And a great big bunch of this is what you should have now. Beautiful, huh? And it tastes even better!
A super salad, especially when it’s cold and dreary outside. Everything in it is good for you: parsley and mint are rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and other micro-nutrients your body constantly needs. Tomatoes have lycopene, Vitamin A and beta carotene. Tabouli is fantastic food for muscle recovery, for healthy blood, for memory and nerves – plus it makes you happy to eat it!