As a teenager, when my family would go out to eat, I’d order a big, greasy ruben sandwich. The giant plate was always delivered heaped with piles of thick-cut fries and a beautiful helping of corned beef and sauerkraut nestled between marbled rye. Without fail, every time I ate my way to the bottom of the fry pile, I came upon a parsley garnish smooshed under an orange wedge.
I had no idea what they expected me to do with the parsley.
Dad and I would mock the poor parsley – and sometimes kale leaf – and belittle its status as anything useful. What were we, rabbits?
As the years went on and I moved out on my own, I ditched the “eat anything deep fried” habit and became close personal friends with anything fresh. I haven’t met a vegetable I don’t like – except canned peas. I am still trying to figure out their purpose in the culinary world.
My first run in with tabbouleh wasn’t a good one. I was a sophomore in college at Northern Michigan University, double majoring in Spanish and Music Education. At the end of the year, the Spanish Department had a big fiesta in the language lab. As Professor Orf happily strummed away at the autoharp in her lap, she pointed us to the tabbouleh she made. It was green and white and granular and new, and I thought I’d try it out. It tasted pretty good. At the end of that evening, however, my stomach decided otherwise and tabbouleh was no longer incubating happily in my digestive tract.
Fast forward about eight years and you’ll find me in kitchen, a slave to culinary experimentation. Over the years I’ve learned that I have a deep love for small plates (tapas, mezze), Mediterranean and Levant cuisine, and cultural traditions. One summer day as I sought air conditioned sanctuary in the produce aisles of the grocery store, I spotted parsley overflowing in a basket on the top shelf. Does anyone else feel like those crazy produce sprinklers come on every time you reach for something? Where’s the fire?
Parsley became crack to me. Squeeze some lemon, add a little olive oil and salt and you’ve got a fresh salad. Take it a few more steps and you’re forking your way through a bowl of tabbouleh.
I’ve looked through various traditional recipes for tabbouleh, and there are so many variations depending on the region. Some use bulgar, some use couscous, some are heavy on the herbs and others on the grain, some use onion and some use cucumber. I couldn’t decide on one, and I make tabbouleh different every time, depending what I have on hand. One this is for certain: I’ve become addicted to parsley! It is incredibly energizing and clean feeling, and not a bad source of vitamins and minerals either…Vitamins K, B, C, and Iron to name a few.
I’ve also got my roommate hooked on tabbouleh. Last New Year’s Day, she and her friend woke up after spending all night dancing. I fed them tabbouleh for breakfast, and they both commented on how energized they felt after eating it. It’s magical, my friends.
This version is one I made one afternoon when I came home starving. It is so quick and easy, and light and fresh. I think it’s a great accompaniment to fish!
I hope you grow to love tabbouleh as much as I do.
- 1 bunch of Italian flat-leaf parsley
- 1 bunch curly-leaf parsley
- ½ bunch of mint
- handful of dry bulgar wheat
- ½ lemon
- a few cherry tomatoes (or 1 roma tomato, or ½ large steak/slicing tomato)
- ½ cucumber, peeled and seeds removed
- extra virgin olive oil (to taste)
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- In a small bowl, add a handful of bulgar wheat. Squeeze ½ lemon over the bulgar wheat and gently mix with your hand to ensure all the grains have been covered by lemon juice. If your lemon is a bit dry, add a little water. Let sit for about 15 minutes, until the grains have softened.
- While the bulgar is soaking, finely chop the parsley and mint.
- If you can, seed the tomatoes. If they’re too small, don’t worry about it. Remove the cucumber seeds with a spoon. Dice the tomatoes and cucumbers.
- Toss the bulgar, tomatoes, and cucumber in with the parsley and mint.
- Drizzle a bit of extra virgin olive oil (a couple teaspoons or a tablespoon) and salt and pepper to taste.