Tabouleh is a staple at pretty much any Lebanese restaurant or more generic Middle Eastern takeout joint. Depending on the quality of the place, it can be a palate cleansing starter or side, or a soggy mess of bland herbs, grain, and tomatoes. I needed to hit this one out of the park.
I found this dish quite interesting due to the fact that parsley is actually the central ingredient…I’m not sure I’ve encountered any other dishes where an herb serves as the main component, not a garnish or a supporting role.
Ironically, what I’ve done here is highlight a wider range of ingredients that put the parsley a slightly less prominent role. The bulgur is texturally fun and makes this a filling side dish, and a little spice from serrano peppers and cumin and the acid from lemons and limes give it the punch to stand up to a protein like grilled lamb or steak.
- 1/2 cup bulgur (dry cracked whole grain wheat)
- 2 bunches parsley, finely chopped
- 5 small Roma tomatoes, diced
- 1-2 serrano peppers, minced
- 10 mint leaves, finely chopped
- 3 scallions, finely chopped
- 2 small persian cucumbers finely chopped or about 1/3 of an english cucumber, seeds removed then finely chopped
- 2 tsp ground cumin (and/or coriander)
- Juice from 1/2 a lemon and 1 lime
- 2 TBSP olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Add chopped tomatoes and about 1 TBSP of salt to a colander and mix to combine. Let sit over a bowl or in the sink for 30 minutes while you prepare the rest of this dish. This step is crucial because it removes excess water from the tomatoes so the salad isn’t soggy, and has the added benefit of intensifying the tomato flavor.
- Bring around 2 cups of water to a boil and add bulgur. Reduce heat slightly and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit 10 minutes more. The cooked bulgur should have a little bite to it. Drain in a fine-meshed strainer and spread out on a large plate and throw in the fridge for 10 minutes.
- Chop the scallions, serrano pepper, parsley, mint, and cucumbers and add to a large bowl. Add the cumin and a few turns of black pepper.
- Remove the bulgur from the fridge. Add to the bowl along with the tomatoes. Squeeze in the lemon and lime juice and a bit of olive oil. Stir everything together and taste. I’ll often add a little more salt or the other 1/2 of the lemon for an extra punch of brightness. Let sit for 10 minutes then serve.