The main ingredient for tabooleh is bulgur, a cooked, dried, and “cracked” wheat product that is a replacement or alternative for rice or other starches such as potatoes in many Middle Eastern cultures.
Bulgur has one great advantage over other grains or starches, as it does not have to be cooked. It can be reconstituted by soaking in hot or even cold water. It can be used as a stuffing for vegetables, fruits, poultry, and even a breast of lamb. Bulgur is the main ingredient of the Middle Eastern wheat salad, “Tabouleh”. Imagine the advantage food like this would have for the Mongol Hordes of Genghis Khan, who marched across Asia and the Middle East and having a product that would feed his armies without the need for cooking or the worry of spoilage. It is not only healthful but tasty food that marries well with the spices of the Middle East. Bulgur comes in four varieties. It can be used as a whole kernel after being cooked, but not yet cracked. Used as barley, or whole wheat product that is already cooked but just needs reconstituting. For other recipes, it comes “cracked” into a fine, medium or coarse mill. Each has its own use. Tabooleh, as for this recipe, works best with the coarse milled product. The medium will also be acceptable.
Armenian and Middle Eastern Wheat Salad (Tabooleh)
Serves 6 – 8
- 2 cups coarse milled bulgur
- 4 cups very hot water
- 1 head of romaine lettuce
- 1 cup green scallions, both white and green portions, chopped
- 1 – 1½ cups chopped Armenian or Italian flat leaf parsley
- 2 tomatoes or 1 cup, diced with pulp & seeds removed (Can use cherry or grape tomatoes cut in half)
- ½ cup fresh spearmint mint leaves, chopped
- ¼ or more cups extra virgin olive oil
- Juice of 1 large lemon
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 3 teaspoons Kosher salt or to taste
- 1 teaspoon Black pepper or to taste
- Cayenne pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon sugar
Optional ingredients: **See Cook’s Notes**
- Wash the bulgur thoroughly, drain, add the water and let stand until the water is absorbed by the bulgur, about an hour. When bulgur has absorbed all the water it can, pour off any excess water and squeeze the bulgur dry by hand. On a very large platter arrange the romaine lettuce. Each leaf should be separated and lined around the outside of the platter. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bulgur and mix well. Mound the tabooleh in the center of the large platter and eat by scooping up the tabooleh with the romaine leaves.
There are other ingredients that pair well with this salad that you might like to try or happen to have on hand. Cucumber, Radishes, Red onion, Bell pepper, red, yellow, orange or green, finely diced will go well. Drained, canned garabanzo beans will go well. I like a jarred sweet and hot pepper called Peppadew®. They are delicious. A little sweet and a little kick goes well with the tabooleh. Leave the cayenne pepper out and try a ½ cup of these. Another tasty addition would be toasted pinion nuts.
Crunch always goes well with a salad. Some cooks will lean toward a lot of tomatoes, some an abundance of parsley, some a lot of lemon juice. I have found that using what you have but not to overwhelm the salad with one ingredient. If I am going to lean to one ingredient, I would choose the bulgur. For you vegetarians or vegans out there, this is one healthful dish to put together.
Unless you are serving the tabooleh to guests, you can just fill yourself bowl of it and have it as a luncheon snack or a light dinner. The Lettuce leaves are optional here, so get yourself a spoon and enjoy.