This started as a Martha Rose Shulman recipe that I found in the cooking pages of The New York Times. As always, when I’m learning a dish, I begin the journey with one recipe and make it the first time exactly as written. Thereafter, I use my accumulated food knowledge and allow whatever I’m feeling in the moment to adapt the original ingredients to whatever I like and to the techniques that I know work in my kitchen, with the equipment I use, all the while writing notes directly into the cookbooks I’m using or onto the printed recipes I’ve downloaded from the internet. In this way, over time, the dish becomes my own. This is what home cooks have done for time immemorial.
¼ cup fine bulgur wheat
1 small garlic clove, minced
Juice of 2 large lemons, to taste
3 cups chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (from 3 large bunches)
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
½ pound ripe tomatoes, very finely chopped
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
Kosher salt, to taste
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Lebanese Style Seven Spice blend, a few sprinkles at the end
Place the bulgur wheat in a bowl, and cover with water by ½ inch. Soak for 20 minutes, until slightly softened. Drain through a cheesecloth-lined strainer, and press the bulgur against the strainer to squeeze out excess water. Transfer to a large bowl, and toss with the garlic, lemon juice, parsley, mint, tomatoes, scallions and salt. Leave at room temperature or in the refrigerator for two to three hours, so that the bulgur can continue to absorb liquid and swell.
Add the olive oil, toss together, taste and adjust seasonings.
So far, the only adaptation I have made to Shulman’s recipe is the addition of Lebanese Style Seven Spice blend, small amounts of which I sprinkle into the salad at the end. The brand I use (Zamouri Spices) contains Mahleb (St. Lucie cherry), allspice, cinnamon, pepper and other spices. St. Lucie is south of Guadeloupe and north of Barbados in the Caribbean. Other tasty optional additions include: hothouse cucumbers, oil-cured Kalamata olives, feta, and red onions – just slice what you like and throw on top of the salad. It’s your kitchen, do you what feel.
Be warned: Tabbouleh is best eaten the day it is made.
On my maiden voyage with this Lebanese Tabbouleh, I also made a homemade pita bread recipe from Suzy Karadsheh, downloaded from her site, themediterraneandish.com. Tucked into warm, just-baked pita bread, with a thin slab of feta cheese, this recipe is a fresh, delicious bite of heaven on earth.