The Parsley Salad
You might have had Tabouli before, but I doubt that it is the same Tabouli I grew up eating. I get excited every single time I see Tabouli on a menu when I go out to eat. But they always overdo it on the cracked wheat (Burgul). In fact, while the makeup should be 90% parsley, at restaurants it’s 90% cracked wheat. I asked one of my friends as to why that was, and he said that it is a Moroccan style of Tabouli. So I asked a Moroccan friend, and he said that Tabouli there is not common and there is no such thing as Moroccan Tabouli.
Well not to get bogged down with all that information, Tabouli comes from the Levant and is mainly made from parsley. You should know the two different kinds of parsley that are most common in grocery stores. There is the flat leaf parsley, also known as Italian parsley, and the curly leaf parsley. I personally prefer flat leaf. It has a really nice aroma and a better flavor especially after it’s finely chopped.
Back home, the way your Tabouli tasted was a scale as to how good of a cook you were. The ingredients are the same. With Tabouli you can’t add or subtract anything, it just comes down to skill and the way you prepare it. This was a lot of pressure on whoever was trying to entertain or empress a group of people over dinner. When it comes to Tabouli, everyone becomes critical and even judgmental at times. Everyone will throw in their opinion, how it needs more lemon, more olive oil, less salt, how their grandma did it! I have witnessed this first hand. A friend of our family, who happens to be an amazing cook, had things to say about my Tabouli both times I made it when she was there. The first time I was advised that I should’ve chopped my parsley coarser, and the second time it was that I should use fresh mint over dried mint. I did agree with her on the second one.
Every time I get the chopping board out to chop my parsley, I can’t help but think about my uncle’s wife, who prefers curly leaf parsley and tears off the leaves individually to throw them in a food processer. She always claimed that it was quicker than chopping the parsley by hand. I didn’t agree with her then and I still don’t today. As to the ladies back home, I never understood why they would spend hours on bunching up the parsley in neat bunches before washing and chopping them. Parsley comes in a bunch when you buy it!
It took several observations and many tries to make the perfect Tabouli. I am pretty confident today that my Tabouli is delicious. Here is how I do my Tabouli!
- 4 bunches of Italian parsley
- 1 bunch of fresh mint
- 3 lemons (squeezed)
- 2 large tomatoes
- 1 bunch green onions
- 0.5 cups of Red Burghul (cracked wheat)
- 0.5 cups of olive oil
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Black Pepper
- 1 tsp Sugar
- 1 tbls dried mint
Wash the parsley one bunch at a time. Chop of half an inch of the stems and discard. Then start chopping as finely as you can from what is left of the stems and onto the leaves. Making sure the parsley is chopped finely is crucial to how this salad comes out. Wash the cracked wheat with cold water like you wash your rice. Then chop your onions very finely as well and let them soak in the 0.5 cups of olive oil. Put the onions aside and start chopping your tomatoes into very tiny cubes. Mix all your ingredients together and stir a few times. You can always adjust your salt, olive oil and lemon juice after mixing. This salad is best eaten with lettuce and cucumbers on the side.
PS. One final piece of advice, never wash your parsley after you chop it because it loses all of its flavor.