I’m sure like for me, food is associated with memories and with the chatter of family and friends gathered around a table.
I first had tabouli in 1995 when I arrived in Boston to attend grad school. Living with my sister, who’d migrated in the mid-80s had received the Moosewood Cookbook from an American friend as a wedding gift and she made it for lunch one day. Tabouli to me was at once strangely tart and chewy, but decidedly refreshing and delicious. I’d seen my grandmother use cracked wheat in a sweet dish in India but never as a savory. I was going to be a fan of tabouli and other Middle-eastern food for life.
The one I make has evolved since the 90s but not by much, why change a classic, right? It’s a summer staple to pack over greens and make a larger salad more hearty or add it to a mezze plate for a light lunch. Traditionally, the salad has a larger amount of parsley and smaller amount of bulgur, but I like the grain more and so I’ve flipped the proportions a tad.
As a Middle-eastern salad, it’s served as part of a mezze or stuffed in a pita roll with your favorite kebabs or falafel. As a food-lover, I love the history of food and its traditions. It is what brings people of different origins around a table, continuing and sharing and building new memories. Recently, I came across the recipe in the cookbook Zahav, from the namesake restaurant in Philly. I loved the way it was written, the story of a chef’s journey, family and the expression of that love through food. Zahav is on my list of places to eat, it’s like I want to soak in that love for something done well.
Yields about 2 cups
1/2 cup raw bulgur cooked per packet instructions
1 plum tomato chopped (you can deseed them if you like, I keep them all in)
1/2 bunch parsley chopped (more if you like)
1-2 cloves of garlic based on size
1 lemon juiced
2-3 tbs of virgin olive oil
3-4 stalks of green scallions chopped
1/2 cup finely diced fennel or celery
salt to taste
You’ll notice I have a non-traditional surprise in there, once I snuck in some fennel and that really bumped up the flavour and crunch factor. And my friends loved it, so over time I’ll sometimes use celery or fennel (Indian fresh green saunf) to enhance the texture.
For my readers in India where some of the ingredients may not be available you can substitute parsley with green coriander and add the Indian snake cucumber, also called the Armenian cucumber for the crunch if desired. How appropriate it is that the cucumber also originates from the Middle-east. This salad is almost like a kachumbar but with a grain and no Indian spices.