I used to be very pretentious when it came to Lebanese food. If I went to a Greek or Middle Eastern restaurant and came across a dish that didn’t look the way my grandmother used to make it, I’d put on airs and make faces with every bite, like a fussy child. At a work potluck recently, someone brought in stuffed grape vine leaves filled with pork, instead of lamb, and I gave them the cold shoulder for nearly a week.
Tabouli has always been one of the greatest offenders, as there are countless variations on its preparation (and spelling), many of which sadly involve being too stingy on parsley. Grocery store tabouli is one culprit: it consists mainly of bulghur wheat and offers the same satisfaction as munching on kitty litter (I’m guessing). My preference is to throw in heaps of parsley, cucumber and tomato, and making a complete meal out of it. The trouble is that I’m sometimes too lazy to undertake the lengthy task of finely chopping 2 bunches of parsley. I own a food processor, but with tabouli is just feels like cheating.
This easy-to-make recipe is a far cry from my Sito’s tabouli, but requires much less preparation and chopping. Although taking liberties with the classic Middle Eastern salad – and hopefully not offending the omnipotent Tabouli Gods by doing so – I know you won’t be disappointed with this version. I’ve reduced the parsley amounts and replaced the other ingredients with roasted pumpkin seeds and cranberries for a pleasant tartness. I’ve still used bulghur wheat here, but it would taste equally good with couscous or quinoa instead. If my grandmother ever asks, this will be our little secret. Shh.
1 cup bulghur wheat
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 cup boiling water
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped relatively finely
1/4 cup red onion, minced
1/4 cup green pumpkin seeds, unsalted and roasted
Juice from 1 lemon
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 1/2 tbsp walnut oil (or olive oil if you don’t have any, though walnut oil is very nutty and aromatic and highly recommended)
3/4 tsp sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1. In a medium bowl combine uncooked bulghur and dried cranberries. Add 1 cup boiling water, or enough to just barely cover the wheat. Let stand for 30 minutes until the water has been fully absorbed. If the bulghur is still hard, add a few extra tablespoons of boiling water and wait 10 extra minutes. Fluff mixture with a fork.
2. Roast the pumpkin seeds in frying pan over medium heat, for 5 minutes. Stir constantly and ensure they don’t burn.
3. Stir remaining ingredients, including pumpkin seeds, into bulghur wheat-cranberry mixture and toss. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.