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Every cook has a version of this dish

Posted by Sheryl Julian  April 19, 2010 04:53 PM

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Tabouli is made all over the Middle East and in other countries surrounding it. It's hard to imagine that a dish that combines about six ingredients could have so many variations. The most well known version is a bulgur salad tossed with lemon juice, olive oil, fresh tomatoes, and lots of parsley. But that's not the only recipe. Other cooks think of tabouli as a parsley salad with only enough bulgur to hold it together. 

Over the weekend, I stopped by Sevan Bakery in Watertown, one of my favorite Middle Eastern markets, to buy bulgur. First I asked what bag to buy for tabouli and the answer was: "Number 1." The grain looked very fine indeed. Then I asked about the correct proportions of water to grain. 

"Water?" asked the clerk.

"Yes, how much water do you use to soak the bulgur?"

"None," came the reply. "Use the juice from the tomatoes." 

A revelation! At home, I peeled and chopped a large hothouse tomato and tossed it and all of the juices with the bulgur, scallions, lemon juice, olive oil, and lots of parsley. My version came out with equal parts bulgur and parsley, though initially I thought it would have more parsley. Obviously I'm a novice at this. I let it sit in the refrigerator for half a day. It's delicious. The fresh tomato juice permeates the grain. There's enough lemon to give it a little bite. Next time I'll add even more parsley because I love the bright taste of the fresh herb. Even with so few ingredients, I think it takes practice. 

Serves 4

1 large tomato, peeled and finely chopped
1/3 cup fine bulgur
Juice of 1/2 lemon 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
Salt and pepper, to taste 
2 cups fresh parsley leaves, coarsely chopped 

1. In a bowl, combine the tomato, bulgur, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and parsley. Stir well. 
2. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or for up to 2 days. Sheryl Julian
About Dishing

What's cooking in the world of food.


Sheryl Julian, the Globe's Food Editor, writes regularly for the Food section.

Devra First is the Globe's food reporter and restaurant critic. Her reviews appear weekly in the Food section.

Ellen Bhang reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe and writes about wine.

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