What’s Cooking at Third Coast? Tabbouleh, Because It’s Tomato Time

Tabbouleh, that ubiquitous Middle Eastern side dish, can play a starring role in your late summer meals, now that real tomatoes have arrived. Whether you grow your own or buy them at one of our farmers markets, real red  luscious tomatoes are a delight to be enjoyed now through late September. The proportions of tabbouleh ingredients vary from maker to maker but the basic formula is chopped parsley, onions and tomatoes plus bulgur wheat with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and a little mint. In some restaurants, the result is overwhelmingly green with emphasis on the parsley. Mine is a fairly even mix, as you can see from the photo. Tabbouleh is an ancient recipe, originating in Lebanon, and it’s a flavorful, healthy addition to any meal. It goes well as a side dish (think grilled meats) or it can be the center of a meal with the addition of something like cheese or hummus with crackers or pita. I like a pita stuffed with hummus and tabbouleh. My favorite lemon squeezer. Here’s my recipe, adapted from an old Time-Life Foods of the World cookbook on Middle Eastern cooking. That Time-Life Series from the late 1960s inspired me to learn to cook dishes beyond what came out of my mother’s kitchen and I still have the set of books. The large books that explored each region’s cuisine with text and photos were accompanied by small, spiralbound recipe books, which I use today. Here’s the tabbouleh recipe. Tabbouleh ½ cup fine bulgur wheat 3 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, chopped One to two cups or handfuls of chopped flat-leaf parsley 1 cup diced sweet onion or scallions Juice of one fresh lemon (about 1/3 cup or to taste) Salt 2 or 3 tbsp olive oil 1 tbsp dried mint, crumbled You can cook the bulgur in about ¾ cup of salted water (bring to boil, simmer for 8 to 10 minutes until liquid is absorbed and it’s still a bit chewy) and then cool it before adding to the recipe. Or you can put the bulgur in a bowl and pour about 1.5 cups of boiling water over the grain, stir and cover with cling wrap. Let it sit for about 30 minutes, test for chewiness, then drain well. Put chopped parsley, tomatoes and onions in a large bowl. Add bulgur. Juice your lemon into the bowl (I love this lemon squeezer) and taste as you go along. Add salt to taste and blend in the olive oil. Finally, add the mint and mix in gently. Mound the salad in a serving bowl or spoon onto romaine lettuce leaves. Do you have a favorite recipe using fresh summer vegetables? Comment below or email it to us.
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Nancy S Bishop

Nancy S. Bishop is publisher and Stages editor of Third Coast Review. She’s a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and a 2014 Fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. You can read her personal writing on pop culture at nancybishopsjournal.com, and follow her on Twitter @nsbishop. She also writes about film, books, art, architecture and design.