Native New Englanders are a hopeful, but wary bunch when spring begins. During a moment of sun drenched delirium this past week, when the temperatures reached into the low 70s (!!), I began foolishly declaring spring’s arrival. My friend Emily (Marblehead born and raised, but a caribbean islander in her past life) burst my bubble:
me: ohhhh I am so relieved that winter is over, it was such a depressing time
Emily: I don’t believe it. This is fake.
me: oh um, right of course, I just meant that it’s nearly over. We’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s a common defense mechanism for us Bostonians, to eschew positive sentiments about springtime in mid-March. March has see many a snow storm, temperatures below 30 and a very long, end-of-winter trudge that can last way into April. Nonetheless, I am hopeful… and certainly not making anymore hearty stews or dense casseroles for a long time. It’s time (or nearly time) for lighter fare, such as rice and grain salads, fruit tarts and cool, tasty spreads.
The following is more of a guide, rather than a recipe, to making tabbouleh– a bulgur and parsley salad that traditionally includes tomatoes, lemon juice, olive oil and little else, but is very versatile and can accommodate pretty much any fresh, chopped salad-type veggies, fruits, or even nuts. With a dollop of hummus or tahini, tabbouleh makes a wonderful snack, or light lunch.
For you tabbouleh purists out there, this is definitely not you grandma’s recipe. For my column at Foodthinkers, I came up with a tabbouleh that included the pulp from a parsley/apple/bell pepper. You certainly don’t need pulp or a juicer however, to play with tradition. All you need is a very sharp knife and a little patience.
Ari’s New Tabbouleh
The key here really is the chopping. When I say “fine” I mean really, really small. You want to have all the ingredients featured in every bite.
1 cup dry cracked bulgur wheat
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped, very, very finely
1-2 crisp apples, finely chopped (no need to peel)
1-2 sweet bell peppers (orange, red or yellow), seeded, ribbed and finely chopped
2 small, persian cucumber, seeded (or one large), finely chopped
juice of 1-2 lemons
salt and pepper
Put the bulgur in a large mixing bowl and cover with water by about a 1/2 an inch. Leave on the counter to absorb the water for ~45 minutes. If all the water has not been absorbed, carefully drain the excess.
Add the lemon juice (the amount depends on taste. I like my tabbouleh very lemony,so I use 2 lemons. If you are making it for the first time, use one lemon and see what you think) and the apples and cover the bowl with a plate or plastic wrap. Put in the fridge for 30-60 minutes. Finally, add the parsley, bell peppers, cucumbers and any other vegetables you are including. Mix everything together and pour in 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil, mix well, then season with salt and pepper.