According to Kaukab, “Americanas” don’t take parsley seriously enough. They waste it on dressing up plates with foods that don’t need it and on people who don’t like it. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Unlike Kaukab, I have faith in the American palate. All they need is a little patience and a really good recipe. And I’ve got just the right one–Tabouli!
Tabou-whaat? Ta-boo-lee. A simple parsley salad, that originated in Kaukab’s homeland of Lebanon.
Now, I have to clarify something here. If I were to have taken a picture of Kaukab’s tabouli and put it next to mine, virtually no one, aside from Kaukab, could have distinguished between them. More importantly, if you were to have eaten from both, virtually no one, aside from Kaukab, could have distinguished between the two. But, because Kaukab didn’t make the tabouli you see pictured above, you would have been lead to believe that my tabouli was not the ‘official’ tabouli. In other words, “It no like mine.”
With that in mind, here’s the ‘official’ recipe. Keep in mind, that I don’t measure. Just. Like. Kaukab’s.
I used portions enough to make a large bowl to serve 8 to 10 people, who would, most likely, go for seconds.
Preparation Time: about 90 min., less if you’re using less parsley.
3 large lemons (used 1/2 to squeeze into the bulghur wheat; the other 2 1/2 to dress the salad)
6 bunches of parsley (leaves picked from stems; stems discarded)
6 to 8 palm-fuls of #1 bulghur wheat (the very finest grain size)
4 – 5 green onions, thinly sliced
5 large tomatoes, finely diced
handful of fresh mint, finely chopped, or 2 -3 Tbl. dried mint
1C or slightly more of extra virgin olive oil
Note: Before you start on the tabouli, you want to first put your bulghur wheat in a small bowl and squeeze a 1/2 lemon over it, mixing it in with your fingers. Then take the bowl to the sink, and drizzle some warm water into your hand, making a couple of small handfuls and put into the bowl, as well. Mix around with your fingers to help separate a bit. Then, leave to soften while you work on the salad. By the time you’re done with all the chopping, and such, your bulghur wheat will be soft enough ( al dente) to add to the salad.
The Wheat When It's Ready
Now, on to the parsley.
It’s easiest to chop the parsley in the food processor. Process on pulse, giving it quick chops until you get a fairly fine chop. (I fit in 4 average-sized bunches at one time.)
Ready to be processed
A Nice Fine Chop
Dump the chopped parsley into a large bowl. Process the remaining and put into bowl. Add in the sliced onions, tomatoes, and mint. (It’s easiest and more time efficient to chop tomatoes by first making thick slices, horizontally, then take each slice and make narrow slices vertically, then holding together, make a quarter turn, counter-clockwise, and slice vertically, again. You’ll have nicely even chopped pieces. For the mint, gather all leaves together, stacking them and then roll them, like a cigar, and folding one end over. Make fine slices across. Then make a couple of quick chops across, again.)
Once the parsley and vegetables are in the bowl, you can add in the bulghur wheat, making sure to use your fingers or a fork to separate the grains before adding in.
For the dressing, in a small bowl, squeeze the 2 1/2 lemons, discarding the seeds. If using sea salt, add in about 2 tsp. so it can help soften and dissolve slightly, otherwise sprinkle in salt or grind salt enough to taste. Pour lemon into the salad. Lightly pour in the olive oil. Mix thoroughly. Sprinkle in black pepper (5 or 6 light sprinkles) and mix again. Taste and adjust. It should have a lemon-y flavor and just wet enough with the olive oil.
Kaukab usually serves it alongside a plateful of romaine lettuce, which you would be expected to use as a utensil. You would be instructed on proper lettuce formation and filling etiquette. But, trust me. The tabouli’s worth it. No matter who makes it.
Oh, and all that lemon squeezing will get you a free french manicure, too.