Tabbouleh - Tabouli

Back when the Earth was cooling I traveled to Europe and spent a few months panhandling, mooching, touring and chasing girls. Not necessarily in that order mind you but I engaged in all the aforementioned activities to greater or lesser degrees of enthusiasm, depending on my need at the time. The late 70's was a great time to be a 20 year old in Europe. Forgive me Father for I did sin. A lot...

When I came up for air to gather sustenance in order to aid my strength and continue the pursuit of girls from the four corners of the world, I normally ate at establishments frequented by the 'locals' or at least sought out places where I could buy inexpensive food.  The quest for inexpensive normally took me to places that nary a camera toting tourist could be found.

It was somewhere "over there" that I had my first taste of tabouli, or tabbouleh as some like to correct me. I can't remember what country I was in when I first sampled it but I loved it immediately. When I came back home to Canada I left the taste of tabbouleh behind and did not sample it again for nearly thirty years. Why? I guess because where I lived for many years there was a dearth of restaurants or stores offering such "exotic" fare. I did live in the barren hinterlands for 3 decades ya know...

I don't know why it took so long to find that wonderful flavour again but now that we have been reacquainted I look forward to our every meeting.  With the aid of a Google search, recipes are available for every kind of tabbouleh version and I have settled on this one.

Living in the Edmonton area offered the opportunity to buy all manner of ethnic food staples to aid in the preparation or location of the foods of my dreams. My dreams are lovely things indeed - though sometimes filthy, dirty, depraved and debauched they may be, they are all mine to enjoy. My dream today was tabbouleh and hummus.

I chuckle when I read any book, magazine or web site that proclaims the recipe being offered is the only one that offers an "authentic" version of the dish being prepared.  By whose measure or irrefutable opinion is their recipe deemed the only way to make an authentic version? Some Divinely ordained food snob? Some professor of history that has the original recipe for the dish so proclaimed in his or her possession, and it is written on papyrus in some long dead language?

To make a claim that any dish is "authentic" is laughable at best and insulting to many cooks in countless kitchens around the world. Like pasta sauces, stews, casseroles and many other food offerings, every cook will render their own spin on it and it will become the only "authentic" version of the dish known to the people that grew up on that cooks version and they will insist their mama's or daddy's is the only authentic version.

The food snobs on TV are the biggest sinners when it comes to making an "authentic" proclamation on any dish. They deride any version that isn't of their own making and insult the rest of us with their bombastic ramblings suggesting their version is the ONLY one worth making. Unless they have time travel capabilities that will allow them to go back to the first version in some far away place, anything they say is typically bullshit when claiming theirs as "authentic".

The ingredient lists of many recipes thus named authentic may be similar, or exact, but often times that is not true.  There may be a common thread to them but the total list and the proportions of endless recipe versions will vary by region to region and in every home kitchen in those regions. Tabbouleh is one such recipe.

One tabbouleh may have more or less bulgur in it than another. One may have more mint, or lemon juice. Others will implore you to add cucumber, while another decries the addition of cucumber as heretical. Italian or flat leaf parsley is the ONLY one to use some will proclaim, and by using just the regular parsley familiar to all of us we are told we're akin to being trailer trash married to a sibling.

Anyway, just ignore those self appointed food snobs on TV and make this recipe, because I promise you, this one IS AUTHENTIC. I have the sandstone tablets to prove it (see top of page). Trust me. Would I lie to you????

2 bunches (6 oz) parsley (flat leaf or regular is fine)

1 cup (2 oz) fresh mint leaves

1 cup medium or coarse bulgur (I like coarse, but you can use fine or medium)

2 -3 large tomatoes, chopped to a ¼” dice

1 cup diced cucumber, seeds removed

3 green onions, minced fine

¼ cup extra Virgin olive oil, or grapeseed oil
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice or lime juice
salt and pepper to taste

Clean bulgur by placing it in a bowl and adding cold water to it.  Stir gently. Drain well by pouring off the liquid to get any “floaties” out of it. Place in heatproof bowl.
Add 2 cups of hot water (or chicken/vegetable stock) to the cleaned bulgur and let sit for 20 minutes. Drain in a sieve or fine mesh collander, set aside.  The bulgur should be ‘al dente’ and not mushy that’s why only 20 minutes.  It will continue to soften on the tabouli and take up more flavour once dish is prepared.

Prepare the mint by removing the leaves from the stems.

Prepare the parsley by cutting the leaves from the thick stems, leaving leaves and tender stems only.

Place the prepared parsley and mint in a food processor and pulse to a medium mince. DO NOT PUREE!!!

Place minced parsley and mint in a glass or stainless steel bowl.

Add bulgur, chopped tomatoes, cucumber and chopped green onions, lemon juice, salt and pepper, stir well.

Season with salt and pepper and add the olive oil. Stir well. Place in fridge for 1 hour.

You can add more oil and lemon if desired, or no oil at all. Be daring.

Serve chilled with romaine lettuce, pita wedges or other lifting mechanism of your choice.

For a gluten free version use quinoa in place of the bulgur. Prepare per package directions.