In the few months between college graduation and getting my first real job, I waited tables at a very popular restaurant in our area. It was one of three very popular restaurants owned by the same Lebanese family. There were two brothers and one sister, and they split the restaurant responsibilities among each other. The spot where I worked was the sister’s domain. The sister and her husband. The husband was well known as a hot head, and it wasn’t uncommon to show up for my shift to the sounds of him throwing a temper tantrum in the kitchen, banging pots and pans and freaking out at the chef. It was just something he did, and it was just understood among the staff that we needed to try to fly below his radar. Happy to say I was successful in doing so. Not to say he actually liked me – he just never freaked out at me. But his wife, the sister of the family – she liked me. After my shifts she’d always let me sit in a back booth and choose whatever I wanted to eat. Sometimes she would even sit and chat with me. I always went for the mezze platter, because it was the best around. Hummus, baba ganoush, stuffed grape leaves and delicious tabouli. This Tabouli (Tabbouleh) is the closest I could get to how I remember it.
There’s such a fresh simplicity about Tabouli (Tabbouleh). More than anything, it’s just a whole lot of parsley! The idea of a salad made of parsley may seem odd, but once you see how versatile it is, you’ll want to have it in your fridge all summer long like I do. You can use Tabouli (Tabbouleh) to accompany grilled meats, poultry and seafood. Put a few spoonfuls on top of rich pastas or potato dishes. And, of course, it’s most at home on a mezze platter with hummus and tzatziki.
Tabouli (Tabbouleh) is traditionally made by adding some chopped tomatoes, lemon juice and bulgur wheat to the predominant parsley. I wanted to make this Tabouli (Tabbouleh) gluten-free, so instead of bulgur wheat I like to use quinoa. The texture of these two grains is very similar and one can easily stand in for the other. The grains are really just supporting actors anyway – it’s the parsley that takes the lead role in this salad. Flat leaf, also called Italian, parsley is what you want to use for this salad. The curly kind of parsley is nice if you want a sprig to garnish whatever dish you’re serving, but you don’t want an entire salad of the stuff. Curly parsley is far less flavorful than flat leaf parsley and it also has more volume – meaning it takes less curly parsley to make the same amount of tabouli that flat leaf parsley makes, further watering down the flavor.
And it’s that fresh, clean flavor that makes Tabouli (Tabbouleh) great. I’m making gyros this weekend and I can’t wait to heap it into the pita along with the grilled chicken and veggies. I hope you make this easy summer salad too, and enjoy!
- 2 cups chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
- juice of 2 lemons
- 1/3 cup chopped scallions
- 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
- 5 small tomatoes (Roma or vine), seeded and diced
- 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and gently fold to combine. Season with salt and pepper.