Jesse Finkelstein's Tabbouleh: The Perfect Summer Salad
In our house, Tabbouleh signals love. It's a fresh and delicious salad that you often see on Middle Eastern tables, and like all the best things in life, it doesn't come easily. The amount of fine chopping involved can seem lengthy and onerous, especially in a fast-paced world where salads often come off the grocery store shelf, pre-washed and pre-made. But it's the chopping that makes this dish so delicious: it brings on the slow release of the scent of various fragrant herbs and vegetables - parsley, mint, green onion, tomato - and it makes the ingredients combine in a way that brings the flavours together beautifully. When my husband prepares tabbouleh for our family, it feels like he's saying "I love you" in a deep and resonant way.
I've written out the process in the way my husband would describe it, which is much the same way in which he learned it from his Iraqi mother: anecdotally, imprecisely, and lovingly. ~ Jesse
Soak a large handful of fine bulgur wheat in tepid water in a medium-size bowl. Drain when the bulgur has softened slightly. This should take about 30 minutes.
Wash two heads of curly parsley. Discard the stems and finely chop the leaves. Put the chopped parsley into a large bowl.
Finely chop two medium-size tomatoes, two green onions, and a small handful of mint leaves. Add them to the parsley.
Juice two large lemons (or more or less, to taste - in our house we like it very lemony) and pour into parsley mixture. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and salt to taste.
When the bulgur has softened, add it to the parsley mixture and toss. The tabbouleh should be slightly fluffy and shouldn't be weighed down by liquid (unless, of course, that's the way you make it in your house!).
Serve at room temperature alongside a meal of grilled meat, rice, olives, and pita bread.
While a little soggier, it's also delicious the next day, if you have any left over.
Serves 4-6 as a side salad.
Jesse Finkelstein is co-founder and principal of Page Two.