18 November 2010

Double Take: Tabbouleh

One of my favorite lunch places in Winston-Salem served a great Tabbouleh. It was always a little too heavy on the dried cranberries, but it was always enjoyable. So when I saw a different Tabbouleh in the all-new ultimate Southern Living Cookbook, I got excited. Bender and I also ate a lot of salad during the three weeks of summer (way too hot to turn on the oven when our apartment had zero circulation, zero fans, and zero air conditioning), so I was also on the lookout for more salad recipes. Thus, this Tabbouleh recipe made the list.
But I’m just now getting around to making it. Outside my window, I see fall in Germany in full swing: cold and rainy. My seven day forecast is calling for wintery mix soon. I’m not thrilled. I’m wanting those three ridiculously hot weeks of summer back!

Oh right, you’re here to hear/read about this Tabbouleh, not my dislike of the weather.  This recipe definitely brought a bit of summer into my mouth! The warmth didn’t exactly extend to my apartment, but that’s okay. I guess you can’t expect too much out of shredded lettuce, bulgur, parsley, tomatoes, mint, garlic, onion, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Unfortunately, this recipe is the first one in a while that is not linked online, and since I followed the recipe almost exactly (I did halve it), I can’t post it. But I’ll take you through the steps and give you some recommendations!

Make sure your lettuce and parsley are nice and dry so it doesn't get too soggy. 

Start with the bulgur. You can cook it according to the recipe (soak in water for one hour) or according to the box (in my case, add to boiling water, cook 7 minutes, drain). I opted for the box directions since I didn’t want to wait an hour. Turns out, Tabitha was right, and it does take a significant amount of time to get the rest of the ingredients ready for the recipe. This recipe is another example of the SLC thinking that you magically have shredded lettuce, finely diced tomatoes and onions, minced fresh garlic, and chopped parsley and mint just sitting in your refrigerator. I don’t, but I have found that my knife skills have improved tremendously since I started cooking from this book, and I am much faster now too. Part of what took so long to chop everything was that I was chopping things for dinner too (chicken tacos again). My original plan was to serve the Tabbouleh with the tacos, but the Tabbouleh calls for a chill time of one hour and we decided we were hungry well before then.

I did leave in most of the juice from the tomatoes because if you've been listening to the Splendid Table lately you know that's where all the umami is: in the seeds and juice!

So to make the Tabbouleh: combine a lot of shredded lettuce with what looks like way too much parsley (but isn't), too little bulgur (I'll increase it a little bit next time, not much, but a little), some tomatoes, a smidge of garlic, a little bit of onion, and a bit of mint. Add a dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss and let sit for one hour.

I gave some to Bender, and heard him exclaim “Hey, this is Tabbouleh. You’ll be able to order this when we are in Egypt. This stuff doesn’t have enough spice, but the stuff in Egypt doesn’t either. It needs pepper and garlic.” I took it back into the kitchen, ground some more pepper into it, and prepared a bit of it to take to work with me today. I also stuck my new spice into my bag to add to the Tabbouleh if needed: sumac. I got in a little late to work today and tried some… the stuff had definitely changed overnight. The additional mingling time for the spices made all the difference in the world. The flavors popped and felt so clean and crisp that I almost thought I’d brushed my teeth. (In a good way) It wasn’t overly minty, but just left you feeling clean and happy. Yay for a party in your mouth!

I shared it with a couple of my coworkers at lunch today and both thought it needed more fat. I took that suggestions and added a bit of avocado to a pita before adding the Tabbouleh. It was great! However, that totally negated the lightness of the salad, so I'd say there is a time and a place for both options. The picture posted below shows a pita with a bit of mayonnaise inside. It was wonderful with just a touch of mayonnaise as the salad kept it's crisp, clean flavor profile. 

I didn't drag my SLR to work today, so you get an iPhone photo. 

Make-again-the-night-before-serving-and-increase-the-bulgur-and-pepper-a-bit: 2 votes!
It-needs-more-fat-maybe-cream-or-cream cheese: 2 votes!

Head on over to Double the Garlic to see Tabitha’s take on Tabbouleh!

PS: This recipe would make a great starter for your Thanksgiving table. It’s light and bright and a perfect foil to all the heavy potato and casserole dishes!

Oh, and about the sumac. I added a little at work today, but the other flavors were so much brighter the second day that the sumac wasn't needed. I'll give it a whirl with sumac as one of the ingredients before sitting overnight just to try it next time I make it. 


  1. This one seems right up my alley. I need to try it soon. Hubby won't eat but it will make some great meals for me!

    Sorry you only had 3 weeks of summer. I'll tried you a couple!

  2. Looks delicious in the pita. I've never seen tabbouleh with lettuce in it. I've only ever seen it with bulgur, herbs, tomatoes and onion (and of course garlic, lemon and olive oil). Did the lettuce wilt and get mushy after sitting overnight? Did you put any olive oil in yours? So many different recipes out there!

  3. I like that we ate it on different breads. Is the pita a more traditional bread in Egypt? What kinds of bread would commonly be eaten with Tabboleh?

  4. @ Aunt Vicki: I hope you enjoy it! Let me know how it turns out, please.

    @ Helen: Yes, it definitely had olive oil in the dressing. My lettuce did not get too soggy, but it didn't stand out as a separate ingredient in the salad either. Do you have a favorite recipe?

    @ Tabitha: I used pita for two reasons. 1. The cookbook suggested it. 2. I already had some. As far as I know, tabbouleh is traditionally served with pita and/or lettuce leaves. I'll let you know for sure how it is served in Cairo at the end of January!


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