Mix and Match Tabouleh

Now that my Aerogarden is in full swing, I have herbs coming out my ears and was trying to think of something to do with the excess parsley and mint which, in turn, made me think of tabouleh (love it!). I ate the most amazing, fresh tasting tabouleh in a Lebanese restaurant in the United Arab Emerites some time ago (along with hummus, khoubiz - a Lebanese flat bread - and a plate of "small tasty birds").  I have since perfected my own method for making this popular, traditional Middle Eastern salad and decided to make some for lunch.

Normally I pour a cup of boiling water over ½ cup medium grained bulgur wheat (fine grained is ok, but I prefer the texture of the medium) and set it aside to soak while I chop a cucumber, a tomato, a big handful of parsley (¼c finished product), a couple sprigs of mint and toss the veggies with 1-2T extra virgin olive oil, all of the juice from one large or two small lemons, salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. When most of the water is absorbed by the bulgur and I'm happy with the texture, I squeeze out the grains with a few paper towels and combine it with the veggies and dressing.  The result is a tart, fresh, delicious lunch for two. 

I had beaucoup fresh herbs, bulgur (a highly nutritious, wholesome wheat product that has been that has been parboiled, cracked, and dried for ease of use), a good quality olive oil and even a huge lemon - everything but the one ingredient I consider essential - a cucumber. I wasn’t going to go to the store for one thing, so I considered my options.

Chagrined and cucumberless, I poked through the tidbits of leftovers in the fridge and pulled out some steamed broccoli, a small container of peas, and diced tomato and shredded romaine lettuce left over from taco night.  The lettuce?  Not so weird because tabouleh is often served with and eaten on crisp romaine lettuce leaves...but broccoli?  Peas?  Nonetheless, I mixed it all up and was pleasantly surprised - the salad was terrific.  But was it tabouleh?  I decided to find out.  

The more I read about the history of tabouleh and the more recipes I perused, the more I learned that the vegetables used in the dish change from region to region, season to season and even from from cook to cook.  The one thing that remains standard is the usage of bulgur, olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice and lots and lots and lots of parsley.  (Indeed, the dish I had in the UAE seemed to consist of more parsley than bulgur.)  So...yes, I had tabouleh and no, in the future I will not hesitate to make it if I'm missing one of the veggies.  So, what's for lunch today?  I have a little asparagus in the fridge and plenty more parsley...

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