Monday, May 10, 2010
2 Recipe #110: Tabouleh
As this recipe shows, parsley isn't just used for decoration. :) This often under-appreciated herb can be used in some highly creative ways. It can be featured as a central ingredient -- as it is in dishes like tabouleh -- or it can be used as a flavorful accent for soups, sauces, and salads, etc.
It's also very nutritious as well: Did you know that parsley contains three times as much vitamin C as an orange by weight, and twice as much iron as spinach? It's also a good source of iodine, copper, & manganese, and contains many flavanoid phytochemicals & volatile oils known to have anticarcinogenic properties. And, in one study published in the scientific journal, Nature, researchers showed that vegetable consumption, particularly parsley & onions, had a positive effect on bone density. Additionally, there've been positive indications from scientific studies that parsley might very well have blood-sugar stabilizing effects and also protect the body against diabetes-related damage.
Other interesting facts: Parsley is a natural breath freshener and digestive aid. So, it's probably highly fortunate that parsley appears in a tabouleh recipe, which also contains onions, scallions, and garlic. Haha!
There are several other ingredients in tabouleh, which are extremely healthy for you. Bulghur, a whole grain, is not only a great source of fiber but also contains several important vitamins, minerals, and hundreds of unique phytochemicals, which, as research suggests, may collectively work together to reduce one's risk of certain chronic diseases and (gastrointestinal) cancers.
And lastly, a word about tabouleh itself: I just want to set the record straight. Traditional tabouleh usually bulghur wheat grains. NOT couscous or quinoa. Also, although many Western versions add garlic as an ingredient, traditional Middle Eastern tabouleh NEVER contains garlic. Just had to get that off my chest. :)
Of course, what goes better with hummus than tabouleh. Add a pita, falafel, a dab of tahini, and you're all set!
And now for the tabouleh recipe. A traditional one, but of course. :)
1 c. bulghur (medium grade)
2 c. cold water
3 c. flat leaf parsley, finely minced (about 2 large bunches)
1 c. fresh mint, finely minced
1 1/2 c. red onion, diced (about 1 small red onion)
1 1/2 c. scallions, sliced crosswise into small rounds (about 8 scallions)
2 c. cucumber, peeled into alternating vertical stripes and diced
2 c. vine-ripened tomatoes, diced (about 3 medium-sized tomatoes)
1/4 c. olive oil
3/4 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 1/2 - 3 lemons)
1 Tbsp. sumac
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
Directions: Soak bulghur in cold water for 2 hours until soft. Drain and then squeeze excess water from bulghur using hands or paper towel. Combine all ingredients and thoroughly mix together. Let marinate in the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving.
Alternate Preparation Ideas: If you'd like to go the non-traditional route, feta, sliced/pitted kalamata olives, and avocado would all taste good mixed into the tabouleh. Another idea is to add pomegranate seeds or syrup. Or, instead of bulghur, try (cooked) quinoa and couscous. For a nice presentation, you can also serve the tabouleh on a bed of romaine lettuce.
Also another idea is to add other spices to the mix: Tabouleh also tastes wonderful with the following combination of complementary ground spices -- cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, &/or clove. I'd suggest using these spices sparingly, and in descending amounts corresponding to their order as shown here. In other words, try adding 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. allspice, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, and 1/8 tsp. clove. Taste first, and then see if you need to add more. :) Lebanese versions of tabouleh often contain cinnamon and allspice.
Paprika and cumin are other spices which would work well together in tabouleh as a combination separate from the above suggestions.
Yield: 2.3 qts. (About 8-10 servings as a small side, or 4-6 as a main course.)