Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh: without any doubt, one of my favorite foods since I was a baby Diana. But, oh, the injustice that has been done to it! If you are someone who is not familiar with Arab food, go to Google and do an image search for tabbouleh. See those pictures that feature a ton of grain? That’s not tabbouleh. Inexplicably, much of the tabbouleh made or marketed by non-Arabs has turned into something akin to pilaf. Once, in horror, I watched a television chef making “tabbouleh” by cooking grains in chicken stock and then adding a few tablespoons of parsley.

Real tabbouleh is a verdant, fresh parsley salad. Traditionally it contains bulgur (burghul in Arabic), a wheat product that you add uncooked to the salad. That means traditional tabbouleh contains gluten, making it unsafe to eat. The good news is that tabbouleh can be made gluten-free with no effort! A giant, family-sized salad bowl of traditional tabbouleh contains only a few tablespoons of burghul. So what happens to the texture and flavor of this salad when you leave the burghul out? Nothing! It’s still as delicious as it always was! I see no reason to muddy this vibrant salad with quinoa or other gluten-free substitutes for the burghul.

Tabbouleh, being a salad, is easy to make, but does take a little bit of time. Get about two very large bunches of parsley for every 3 people you plan to serve. After washing the parsley very well, remove the leaves from the long stems. You can keep the smaller stems (the ones attached directly to the leaves) on if you like; I usually do. Traditionally, all the parsley is minced by hand. However, if you are short on time, energy, or knife skills, you can divide the parsley into batches and give them quick pulses in a food processor. (I was in a hurry this time around, so that’s what I did here.) Be careful not to overdo it. You don’t want to turn the parsley into soup. It should be noted that when you mince your parsley by hand, it’s fluffier, which is preferable to the sort of pressed-down quality of the machine-chopped results. But either method is fine.

Then, finely chop (by hand, of course) some plum tomatoes (making the pieces about the size of a large bean), mince some onion, and mince a bunch of fresh mint. Dress with extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, sea salt, and freshly cracked black pepper. I usually refrigerate the salad for about an hour, because it tastes best chilled and when all the ingredients have had time to marry. In fact, this is the only salad I know of that tastes better the next day!

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