Long before you could easily find recipes on the Internet The Complete Middle East Cookbook by Tess Mallos is my go to book for Middle Eastern cuisine. Like many of my best cookbooks I bought this one at a library discard sale. It had seen much use before I bought it 25 years ago, but as tattered as it is, it has some great recipes in it. I have made a few changes to her recipe over the year’s but not as many as I make to other dishes.
I have had a lot of tabouleh in my day and I have developed some personal biases on this subject. Tabouleh is bulgur and parsley salad. When I get a dish of tabouleh where I cannot find the bulgur I wonder if they have brought me the right thing. I feel that the proper proportions of greens to bulgur should be 50/50. Tabouleh should also not be too sour, too salty or too oily. Is there a thing as too garlicky? I don’t think so. It should not be too dry or too wet, boy am I picky. While the pinch of mustard may not be traditional it acts as an emulsifier to keep the oil and lemon juice from separating.
Bulgur is a processed wheat that comes in four grades, #1 Fine, #2 Medium, #3 Coarse and #4 Extra Coarse, based on the size of the grains. For tabouleh I prefer the Medium, rather than the Fine, for the better chew it provides.
½ cup #2 bulgur
½ cup green onions
1½ cups flat leaf parsley
¼ cup mint
1/3 cup olive oil
3 Tbs. lemon juice
½ tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. salt
Pinch of dry yellow mustard
2 Persian cucumbers
3 cups mesclun (mixed baby greens)
1. Tabouleh is best made the day before, so that the flavors may meld. At least 6 hours before the dinner, put the bulgur in a bowl and add two cups of cold water. Let the grain sit for an hour and then drain it through a sieve. Press as much water out as you can.
2. Spread the bulgur out onto a tightly woven clean dish towel. Fold the towel, so that the grain cannot escape and squeeze as much water out as you can. Lay the towel out to let it dry further for 15 minutes. Scrape the bulgur off the towel back into the dried bowl.
3. Wash and dry the parsley, green onions and mint.
4. Chop the green onions very fine and add them to the bowl. Use your hands, or the back of a wooden spoon, to squeeze the mixture so that the bulgur absorbs the onion flavor.
5. Chop the parsley and mint very fine and mix it into the bowl.
6. Place the olive oil, lemon juice, pepper, salt and mustard into a small lidded jar and shake well.
7. Add ¼ cup of the dressing to the salad and mix well. Let the salad meld, stirring occasionally. If you make it the day before, refrigerate until an hour before serving.
8. An hour before serving, peel, seed, and dice the cucumbers and tomatoes. Add them to the salad and mix them in.
8. Serve the mesclun and the rest of the dressing on the side. Diners make a bed of lettuce and top it with the tabouleh and extra dressing if they wish.