Excerpt from FEAST: Food of the Islamic World by Anissa Helou. Copyright 2018 by Anissa Helou. Excerpted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
- Servings: 4 to 6
From FEAST: Food of the Islamic World and author Anissa Helou --
"Now that tabbouleh has gone global, it has become one of the most commonly misinterpreted salads. The most typical mistake is adding too much bulgur. Then there are those who add cu- cumber, or worse, cilantro, both absolute no-nos. Of course there are variations from region to region or even family to family, but a few golden rules apply. One, it is an herbs and tomato salad, not a grain salad, so the proportion of bulgur to the herbs and tomatoes is minimal. Second, all the herbs should be cut by hand. Don’t even entertain the idea of chopping the herbs in a food processor. You will end up with a mushy salad that will oxidize more quickly than if you cut your herbs into thin slivers using a very sharp knife. And lastly, use firm but ripe tomatoes.
"In Lebanon, most people like their tabbouleh very juicy, but I like mine rather dry and crisp, and I drain off the juice before adding the tomatoes to the herbs. I also use less lemon juice, but this is a question of taste. Also important is the quality of the bulgur. Use a fine granulation, which means that you don’t need to soak it. Just rinse and drain it and let it sit to fluff up before using."
- Scant 1/4 cup (30 g) fine bulgur
- 6 firm-ripe medium tomatoes (1 pound 5 ounces/600 g total), cut into small cubes
- Bunch scallions (2 ounces/50 g)
- Bunches flat-leaf parsley (14 ounces/ 400 g total), most of the bottom stems discarded
- 1/3 bunch mint (2 1/2 ounces/75 g), leaves stripped off the stems
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice or FEAST's Lebanese 7-Spice Mixture (see the book for the recipe)
- 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
- Sea salt
- Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 4 Little Gem lettuces, washed and quartered
- Rinse the bulgur in several changes of cold water. Drain well and let sit in a medium bowl. Stir every now and then with a fork to help it fluff up.
- Put the diced tomatoes in a small bowl and set aside while you prepare the scallions and herbs. Finely slice the scallions and place over the tomatoes. Use a razor-sharp knife to chop the herbs and gather as much as you can handle in a bunch, then slice the herbs very thinly to end up with nice, crisp, thin slivers.
- Drain the tomatoes of their juice and transfer the tomatoes and scallions to a large bowl. Add the herbs. Sprinkle the bulgur all over, then season with the cinnamon, allspice or 7-spice mixture, and pepper. Add salt to taste. Add the lemon juice and olive oil and mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
- Serve immediately with the quartered lettuce on the side. In the Levant, diners use the lettuce leaves to scoop the tabbouleh instead of a spoon or fork and eat them both together.