"This Tabouleh Salad is a light, refreshing salad of bulgur wheat, fresh tomato, cucumber, onion and lots and lots of parsley. It could almost be called a parsley salad since so much is used. Simply tossed with a dressing of fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil, it's a great simple side"
The Making of The Best Tabouleh Salad
I've eaten Tabouleh Salad for years, usually purchased from the deli counter in a little plastic container to eat as a side dish for whatever sandwich we chose for lunch.
I've had good Tabouleh salads, made with a nice mix of bulgur wheat and parsley, to horrid Tabouleh salads, comprised of overly oily parsley mixed with little else.
But in making my own version, I wanted a perfect ratio of bulgur to parsley to fresh crunchy cucumber to ripe, firm, tomato.
And I wanted the dressing to be light, not oily. With a good mix of lemon to olive oil.
Did I succeed?
I think I did.
I don't know why I haven't made Tabouleh salad at home before. I guess it's because cracked bulgur wheat seemed so "foreign" and therefore it must be difficult to work with.
It's not. Cracked bulgur wheat is a partially cooked grain product that is then cracked into what reminds me of "Grape Nuts". It cooks in about 10 - 15 minutes and has a slightly nutty flavor.
Nothing scary or difficult about that.
I did read through my library of cookbooks and looked online at different recipes before starting my own version.
One recipe I read online had the instruction to put the uncooked cracked bulgur wheat into the dressing to "soak up" the dressing for additional flavor - sighting the fact that since it's partially cooked already, leaving it in the dressing would allow it to plump up and become soft while soaking up flavor.
Wow, I thought, great idea.
My partially cooked, 10 minutes to cook, practically instant cracked wheat bulgar did not soak up anything.
It did not become soft.
It did not become more flavorful.
It only became hard, crunchy, oily bulgur.
Not a good way to start. So after tossing that to the chickens (they like crunchy bulgur wheat with dressing), I started over.
With cooked bulgur wheat.
I did cook my wheat about 1 minute less than the package directions. This left it soft, but undercooked enough that it was still able to soak up the dressing, along with the wonderful flavors.
By the time I served, it 2 hours later, it was perfectly soft, tender, and flavorful.
Back in the day, a big sprig of parsley on the plate was the garnish de jour. Everybody put that parsley on there for that "pop" of color. With breakfast it sat on an orange slice, otherwise, the parsley stood alone.
I may have been the only person on the planet who actually ate her parsley. My friends would look at me like I had a third eye "why are you eating that" they would ask. Well, first of all, I liked the flavor. Second, it refreshed my mouth. And third, it covered the smell of tobacco smoke on my breath so my parents wouldn't know I smoked.
Of course, when I was growing up everybody smoked cigarettes.
Just look at some old news shows, all the reporters have cigarettes in their hands.
Even Andy of Mayberry smoked.
Once, this pillar of moral compass for the township of Mayberry and the audiences of televisions everywhere in America actually smoked in bed.
And Lucy smoked all through her pregnancy on "I Love Lucy" - the fact that the show was brought to you by Phillip Morris, one of the top tobacco producers in the US may have had something to do with that...luckily we are smarter now.
But aside from the "palette" and breath cleansing benefits of eating parsley, there are health benefits as well, such as:
- Parsley is rich in many vitamins, including Vitamin C, B 12, K, and A which helps keep your immune system strong.
- Parsley helps flush out excess fluid from the body, supporting kidney function. However, it contains oxalates, which can cause problems for those with existing kidney and gallbladder problems. So check with your doctor if this is an issue for you.
- The folic acid in parsley can help control your blood pressure.
- Regular use of parsley can help with joint pain as it has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Parsley relaxes stiff muscles and encourages digestion.
- Studies indicate that parsley may have a role in inhibiting cancerous tumors.
So when adding the parsley to the Tabouleh - remember to add copious amounts, at least two cups of chopped fresh parsley - more if you so desire - to help reap the health benefits as well as the flavor.
Flat or curly parsley - that's your choice. Either one works fine.
Cucumbers are another one of those, "your choice" ingredients. You could use Persian cucumbers, which are small with tender skin, Japanese or Hot House cucumbers, or just plain old regular cucumbers. If you can find the Persian cucumber, I don't think that you need to peel them. You could also leave the Hot House or Japanese cucumber with the skin on, I often do in salads, but chose to remove it for this preparation as I thought the skin, both in color and texture, distracted...or peeled diced cucumber.
Cucumbers offer many health benefits as well, some that mimic the parsley along with lowering uric acid which helps keep your kidneys in shape, being good for diabetes, and helping to lower your cholesterol.
Regardless of the type of cucumber use, and whether you peel it or not, use a teaspoon to scoop out and remove the seeds.
The tomatoes should be fresh.
If making this dish in other than the summer months, use a Roma tomato for best flavor and texture. During the summer, use any fresh firm tomato. If especially seedy, remove the seeds before adding them to the salad or it might get too mushy.
Damn, this salad is delish and healthy.
The dressing is super simple.
Equal amounts of lemon juice to extra virgin olive oil.
I found ¼ cup each to work perfectly in dressing, but not overdressing, the salad.
Here's a place you'll want to use a full-flavored extra virgin olive oil. Something with a bit of "pepper" or "grass" to the flavor is nice.
If you've never been olive oil tasting, you won't understand how different these oils can be. I highly recommend you go if you have a chance.
Look in your higher-end markets for a good choice of artesian olive oils. They are a bit more expensive, but you don't use them to cook, only to finish. And if you don't use it often, keep it in the refrigerator to maintain freshness. "Thaw" it slightly before using it. Oil will solidify in the refrigerator.
This salad holds in the refrigerator for a few days and actually improves in flavor on days 2 and 3. After that, the tomatoes tend to get a bit mushy, so I wouldn't keep it much longer...that is if it's still around.
And I can tell you this, now that I know it's this easy, and this good...I will not be buying it from the deli counter anymore. Fresh is the best!
Here are more Hearty Salads...
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice about 1 large lemon
- ¼ cup best quality extra virgin olive oil here is a place to use a full-flavored oil
- Salt and coarse ground pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper is my taste)
- ½ cup about ¼ large red onion, diced
- ¾ cup diced cucumber seeds removed, skin if desired
- ½ to ¾ cup diced tomato Roma works well here
- ¼ cup cracked bulgur wheat cooked, drained and cooled
- 2 cups or more minced fresh parsley leaves 1 - 2 bunches depending on size
- Whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl. Add the onions, cucumber, and tomato. Stir in the cooked bulger, then add the parsley. There should be a copious amount of parsley. Mix well, Taste and adjust for salt and pepper, adding more lemon juice if it tastes too oily. Best if allowed to rest in the refrigerator for a couple of hours to allow the flavors to meld. Remove from refrigerator about ½ hour prior to serving.