A Side to Remember – Classic Tabbouleh
I love to peruse the New York Times dining section, in particular I am continually amazed by the column called “The Minimalist.” Mark Bittman, it’s author, is a culinary genius, his recipes are so diverse and yet are all reduced quite elegantly to a set of simply choreographed video recipes. The other night I followed Bittman’s advice and roasted a chicken, it was beautiful and golden and juicy. But I’m not really here to talk about the chicken, Mark Bittman’s post does that so well already. What I would like to share with you today is the side dish we enjoyed with that delectable bird.
Tabbouleh is one of the Middle East’s most popular dishes, and eating this it immediately becomes clear why. This flavorful dish is coated with a light lemon based dressing perfumed with the nutty notes of toasted cumin and a slightly spicy punch of cayenne. Actually, the name Tabbouleh comes from the Arabic word Tabil, which means to spice or season, its no wonder that the spices in this dish are featured front and center. Additionally the salad is chock full of one of my favorite grains of all time, bulgur. Bulgur is a whole grain made from white wheat that has been par boiled and dried. The par boiling makes this grain quick to prepare, to make the tabbouleh the bulgur only needs to be soaked in boiled water for about 20 mins and then drained.
I always recommend using farm fresh tomatoes when cooking if they are readily available, however, for this dish, finding the worlds best tomatoes is less crucial than it would be in, say, a tomato mozzarella salad. I used some nice, ripe looking Romas with great success. I am fairly certain that, if you wanted to, you could swap the tomatoes out entirely for some nice crisp cucumbers, though you would not get the striking color contrast of green on red that the tomatoes provide. For this dish you will likely need a little more salt than you initially expect, so season, taste, and season some more. I find that it is helpful to let the dish sit for a few minutes after it is all mixed together, before adding in the additional seasonings as the flavors will meld during those few minutes of rest and give you a more accurate picture of what the dish will taste like come dinner time. The flavors pair quite well with any grilled meat or veggie, lamb or eggplant kebabs would go stunningly with this, leftovers, if you have any, can be served up for lunch the next day in a wrap with hummus or turkey. However you choose to enjoy this dish, share with friends and family and dig in!
1 Cup Fine Bulgur Soaked in Just Boiled Water for 20 mins (or until al dente)
6 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
2 TSP Ground Toasted Cumin
1 TSP Aleppo Pepper Flakes
1 TBSP Kosher Salt
5 Roma Tomatoes, Chopped
5 Scallions, Whites Chopped into Thin Rounds
1 Bunch Flat Leaf Parsley, Thick Stems Trimmed off, Chopped
3 TBSP Mint Chopped (or 2 TSP dried)
Soak bulgur in just boiled water until al dente and drain well.
Mix olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, aleppo, and salt together in a small bowl and mix.
Mix together bulgur, tomatoes, parsley, scallions, and mint in a large bowl. Dress lightly with some of the dressing and toss. Taste. Let it sit for 5 mins and taste again, adding additional dressing if needed.