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Lynda Balslev: A very green (and greedy) salad


Tabbouleh is a bulgur salad; in fact, it’s also a very green salad. It consists of an abundance of fresh garden herbs, jumbled together with bulgur, citrus and olive oil, which paint this salad an unmistakable green. You might also call tabbouleh a very greedy salad, since there seems to be no limit to the fresh herbs it will absorb.

Tabbouleh is a staple in Levantine cuisine, where warm weather salads refresh and nourish. It’s a satisfying dish that can serve as a light main course or as an accompaniment to grilled meat, fish and vegetables, or it can be packed into pita pockets with crumbled feta and a drizzle of garlicky yogurt.

The key to making this salad is to constantly taste for flavor and texture as you build it. Tabbouleh should be fresh and bright, juicy and crunchy. Add finely chopped cucumber, peppers and onion for freshness, sweetness and a little heat. Keep the dice as uniform as possible. Chop entire bunches of parsley, cilantro and mint, and fold the greens into the salad. Then chop more; the greener the tabbouleh, the better. Taste. There should be a balance of citrus, spice and a kick of heat. Then refrigerate the salad for at least one hour to allow the ingredients to relax and mingle and the flavors to develop.

Tabbouleh Salad

Active time: 30 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes, plus mingling time

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

1 1/2 cups bulgur

1 1/4 cups hot water

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste

3 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced

1/2 English cucumber or 2 Persian cucumbers, seeded, finely diced

1 red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely diced

1 green jalapeno or serrano pepper, seeded, finely chopped

1 bunch fresh Italian parsley leaves and tender stems, chopped

1 bunch fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped

1 small bunch fresh mint leaves, chopped

Crumbled feta cheese for sprinkling

Combine the bulgur, water, lemon juice, and olive oil in a bowl. Cover the bowl and let stand until the liquid is absorbed and the bulgur is tender, about 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Add the garlic, cumin, coriander, salt, lemon zest, black pepper and cayenne and stir to blend. Stir in the scallions, cucumber and peppers, then fold in the fresh herbs. Taste for seasoning; don’t hold back on adding more if needed. If the bulgur is too dry, add additional olive oil or lemon juice.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to develop. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area

Tabbouleh is a staple in Levantine cuisine, where warm weather salads refresh and nourish.
Photo by Lynda Balslev

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