Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser
Prep Time: 25 minutes Standing Time: 1 hour Cook Time: 0 minutes
Tabouli is a Middle Eastern classic (from the Levant to be exact). The original always has but a few ingredients—bulgur wheat, fresh parsley, tomatoes, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt—and like all “original” or “classic” recipes, there is a wide variety of proportions used and additions from one cook to another. This version takes a few turns west and east. It has flavors that stretch beyond the Middle East to modern-day Iran (heading east) and to the southern Mediterranean (heading west). It showcases the bulgur wheat of the original, perked up with the Marash or Aleppo peppers of the region. Fresh basil and mint are popular in Persian cooking, along with lime, and yet, once you add those herbs to tomatoes, it feels so very southern Italian. The vibrant toasted pistachio oil and extra-virgin olive oil are reminiscent of the southern Mediterranean, the Levant, and across into Persia. It’s a global confluence in one delicious bowl. This recipe is vegan and tastes great with some cooked or crunchy toasted chickpeas (there are a bunch of brands around that do a good job) if you want to boost the protein. You can also add a handful of roasted, salty pistachios on top, just before serving. For vegetarians, you can easily add feta, brinza, Romano, Parmesan, ricotta salata, or any salty, crumbly or shaveable cheese.
3 cups bulgur wheat
6 cups boiling water
8 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced or grated, any green centers discarded
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons toasted ground cumin
Juice and zest of 2 limes
2 tablespoons date vinegar or cider vinegar
3 large tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 Kirby or Persian cucumbers, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large Roasted Red Peppers or jarred roasted red peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 to 8 marinated artichoke hearts, drained and cut into 1-inch pieces, long-stemmed prefered
Leaves of 2 large bunches fresh basil, torn or cut into chiffonade, about 2 cups (see Kitchen Tips)
Leaves of ½ bunch fresh mint, torn or cut into chiffonade, about ½ cup (see Kitchen Tips)
Leaves of 4 stems fresh thyme (see Kitchen Tip)
¼ cup pistachio oil, toasted preferred
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Pour the bulgur wheat into a large fine-mesh sieve and run under cold water, and pick through the wheat to remove and discard any sticks or pebbles. Drain and pour into a large mixing bowl. Add the 6 cups of boiling water. Set aside and let stand for 1 hour. Drain and set aside. (The bulgur wheat can be done up to one day in advance and kept in covered containers in the refrigerator.)
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the garlic, salt, cumin, ground pepper, lime juice and zest, and stir well. Add the tomatoes, cucumbers, red peppers, artichoke hearts, basil, mint, and thyme, and mix well to combine. Add the bulgur wheat and mix gently to combine. Drizzle the pistachio oil and olive oil over the mixture and mix well. Taste and add additional salt or pepper as desired.
- Chiffonade is a French term that simply means that leafy greens or herbs are cut into thin strips. To make a chiffonade of basil, stack the leaves on top of one another on a work surface. Roll tightly from stem to tip, and then cut the roll crosswise in ⅛-inch slices with a sharp knife. Unroll and you will have lovely, thin slivers.
- To remove the leaves from a sprig of fresh thyme, hold the sprig (or a few) at the top with one hand, and with the other hand, grasp the stem with your thumb and forefinger and gently slide your fingers down the stem. The leaves will be pushed against the direction they grow in, and will come off easily.