The onset of summer means gradually kicking out the conventional meals brimming with oil and masalas and saying hello to more juices, salads and organic veggies! So for this month we have a Lebanese salad for our BnP readers, which is a perfect vegetarian/vegan blend of tradition, tantalisation and tang!
Whether you are a fan of the Middle Eastern pita bread, shawarma wraps, baba ghanoush (made with eggplant), falafels, hummus, tahini or the rich bakalava, this tomato and parsley based salad makes a good side to your chicken or works well even as a stand-alone salad! The essential ingredient in the authentic Lebanese version is the Bulgur, which is partially steamed wheat kernels/wheat berries that are dried, coarsely ground and sifted to various sizes ranging from very fine to very coarse.
2 1/2 cups fine bulgur (can be substituted with cooked quinoa or couscous in dire circumstances!)
1/3 cup chopped green onions
3 1/2 cups flat parsley leaves, washed and dried
1 large red bell pepper cut in julienne (about 1 cup)
2 cups tomato juice
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 small cucumber (optional)
Soak the bulgur and then place in a small bowl. Cover it with boiling hot water by 1/2-inch. Set aside to soak until softened but still chewy, for about 20 minutes.
Prepare the herbs and vegetables. While the bulgur is soaking, juice the lemon and chop the parsley and mint. You will need roughly 1 1/2 cup packed chopped parsley and 1/2 cup packed chopped mint for this amount of bulgur. Slice the scallions thinly to equal a heaping 1/4 cup. Medium chop the tomatoes. Medium chop the cucumber till you have about 1/2 cup.
Dress the bulgur and when done, drain off any excess water and place in the large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add them to the bowl with the bulgur, the seasoning and toss.
Add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil, another 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and toss everything together, while adjusting the seasoning as per taste.
Garnish the tabbouleh with half a tomato and a few whole mint sprigs. Serve at room temperature with crackers, cucumber slices, fresh bread or pita chips.
Tabbouleh is extremely flexible. Feel free to add more or less of any ingredient based on your palate and mood!