Wednesday, January 26, 2011

You say tomato, I say tabbouleh!

TAKE TWO. I've been a bad blogger. Not only have I been hoarding drafts of recipes (the arduous task of pressing "publish" has proved too intimidating!), I've also neglected the comments. And just now I deleted an entire entry on accident. If you endeavor to make that lentil soup again--and don't be afraid to tinker, as I was amused to see a very similar recipe on another blog that added onions and cream--here is a great dish to include as a side. I absolutely love tabbouleh. I'm also a big fan of the mezze tradition, being one of those diners who can never decide on just one dish from the menu! Having grown up eating a lot of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food, I can honestly say tabbouleh is one of my favorite dishes among their cuisine. It's usually one of the first things gone from my mezze plate. It also works as a great salad when serving with heavier options, like lamb skewers. Don't forget the piping hot pita! Here's your shopping list:

1/4 cup mint
1/2 cup parsley
1/4 cup red onion
3/4 cup dry bulghur wheat
1/2 dry pint grape tomatoes
1 cucumber, seeded
1 lemon, juiced
olive oil (the good stuff), to taste
salt, to taste

To cook the bulghur wheat, place it in a heat-proof container and cover with boiling water straight from the kettle. Let stand for 15 minutes. While the bulghur cooks, very finely chop the herbs and vegetables. I use grape tomatoes in the winter since larger varities lack flavor out of season. You can halve or quarter them to give the tabbouleh texture. If all you have on hand are one of those larger tomatoes, be sure to seed it. One step you do not want to skip: seeding the cucumber. It's annoying and messy--I do it over the sink--but it makes a dramatic difference in the final product. Your tabbouleh will be very watery if you neglect to do so. I also prefer a very fine chop, so almost all the ingredients are uniform in size along with the wheat. Cool the bulghur in a sieve under a cold stream of water. Combine all the ingredients along with a good glug of olive oil and a few shakes of sea salt (less than you think you need). I've been using the everyday olive oil from Olivier et Co. lately. While I wasn't that impressed tasting it in store, it has proven to be a solid performer in every dish I've used it. For authenticity, Minerva olive oils from Greece are reliably good. If you prefer a greener tabbouleh, double the parsley and mint. You can also omit the mint if it's too difficult to find this time of year. For the adventurous, finish with a dusting of cayenne pepper. Give the ingredients a few hours (ideally, overnight) to mingle in the fridge. I warn against oversalting since the incubation period will really intenfisy the flavors. Serves at least four side portions, or two greedy diners.

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