From Scratch: Add color, zing to tabouli


With all the rain we've been having lately, my garden is thriving. This year, I feel I don't have to stay up all night armed with a shotgun to protect the two lone tomatoes on the vine from the rampaging groundhog.

Even my parsley has come back to life after being mowed down in late spring by a gourmet rabbit. With tomatoes and cucumbers just starting to ripen, I need all the parsley I can get to make tabouli, one of my favorite summertime salads.

There are many different spellings for this Middle Eastern salad, but the basic ingredients are simple — parsley and bulgur tossed with a dressing of lemon juice and olive oil. Any other vegetables you choose to add are optional. I like tomatoes, which lend a bit of color. Scallions add a bit of zing.

Bulgur is wheat kernels that have been steamed, dried and then crushed into small pieces. Bulgur is a whole grain and thus high in fiber and vitamins.

Because it has been partially cooked, bulgur is quick and easy to prepare. Bob's Red Mill brand of bulgur is carried by most supermarkets in the "health food" section. Bulgur keeps for a long time. If you tire of tabouli, you can use it as a side dish much like you would use rice.

For the parsley, you can use either flat leaf or curly leaf. The only important thing is that it is very fresh and abundant. You can't use too much.

Because of the large amount of parsley called for in the recipe, you may be tempted to use a food processor for the chopping. This will result in over-chopped parsley that will become soggy when you add the dressing. A very sharp knife will do the job almost as fast and require much less washing up.

Traditional tabouli uses lots of parsley and results in a bright green salad. I prefer mine with a little more bulgur. Take the recipe below as a starting point, and then add or subtract amounts to your preference.

To begin, assemble the following ingredients:


1/2 cup bulgur

1/2 cup boiling water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tomato, diced

2 bunches fresh parsley, finely chopped

3 tablespoons mint, finely chopped

2 scallions, chopped

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped

Pour the boiling water over the bulgur, add salt, and cover. Let stand for 30 minutes.

Drain the bulgur, pressing out any remaining water. Place in a medium-size bowl.

Whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice. Add the remaining ingredients and toss lightly with the dressing. Taste for salt.

Chill for one hour. Tabouli is traditionally served on lettuce leaves.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.