Tabbouleh , the traditional dish from the Middle East is a great salad that is almost a meal in itself, and the end of summer is one of the best times to make it; your garden is brimming with plump tomatoes or cherry tomatoes perfectly ripened on the vine, cucumbers, despite the heat, are crisp and cool, the parsley and mint are running rampant, while green onions or chives are ready and waiting to shine.
Dressed with your best olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon and seasoned with a sprinkling of sea salt, using these herbs and veggies while they are at their peak in a fresh, bright salad dish like tabbouleh is a delicious, healthy way to combine the goodness of these ingredients with the nutty, chewy goodness of bulgur. Bulgur is essentially cracked wheat with the bran removed, then it is softened and ready to use.
Here is a traditional recipe from The Barefoot Contessa herself, Ina Garten, that captures the flavours and freshness of this classic dish.
1 cup bulgur wheat
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/4 cup good olive oil
3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup minced scallions, white and green parts (1 bunch)
1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves (1 bunch)
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (1 bunch)
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and medium-diced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Place the bulgur in a large bowl, pour in the boiling water, and add the lemon juice, olive oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Stir, then allow to stand at room temperature for about 1 hour.
Add the scallions, mint, parsley, cucumber, tomatoes, 2 teaspoons salt, and the pepper; mix well. Season to taste, cover and refrigerate. The flavor will improve if the tabbouleh sits for a few hours.
Of course you do not have to be strict about this recipe for tabbouleh, you can use a variety of grains, not just bulgur; equal parts brown or red cargo rice, lentils and quinoa make an unbeatable combination of flavour and nutrition, and if you omit the bulghur altogether your tabbouleh will be gluten-free. Another almost irresitable variation is to sweeten the pot a bit by adding a handful of dried black currants.
One hint about making tabbouleh, or any variation of it; you can easily double the amount of cooked grains and set some aside and keep it in the fridge if you think you might want tabbouleh two days in a row. Only mix in the rest of the ingredients when you are ready to eat it, otherwise the tomatoes and cukes will get soggy and the rest of the fresh ingredients lose their lustre.