Tabouli is a popular Middle Eastern salad that is made with finely chopped mint, parsley, bulgur (or cracked wheat) grains, tomatoes and onions. It gets it’s fresh, tangy taste from the mixture of lemon juice, olive oil and salt that is added to the mixture. Although these are traditional ingredients of Tabouli, there are quite a few simple exchanges you can make to create different and delicious variations.
Exchange the finely chopped mint for cilantro for a crisp, peppery taste. You can also add a teaspoon of cayenne pepper to the salad mixture to give it a fresh colour and taste. Adding in an abundance of parsley creates a tasty, herbed flavour. Slicing the parsley rather than chopping it will ensure that it does not become watery or mushy, but retains a firm, leafy texture. Mint stalks need to be removed as they can take away from the smooth texture of the salad and do not add to the flavour. Mint is also best when sliced, rather than chopped. Some people like to drain the juice of the tomatoes prior to adding them in to make sure that the salad remains crisp and not too watery. Adding feta cheese to the recipe adds a delicious creaminess.
Remember that none of the ingredients will be cooked, so ensure that condiments such as garlic are crushed or especially finely cut. Also be sure to add salt and pepper to the onions before adding them to the mix, as this will enhance the sweetness of the juice. The regular onions can be substituted for spring onions or shallots. The bulgur component can be replaced with quinoa or cous cous according to your preferences. You could even replace the grain with cauliflower rice. Some chefs like to add cubed lamb, chicken, beef or salmon to turn their Tabouli into a main course.
You can get creative with additions to your Tabouli. Chickpeas, avocado, bell peppers and even fruits such as pears create interesting flavours and fresh takes on the original. Adding in spices such as cinnamon, ground ginger and cloves will add a nutty taste to the salad.
Bulgur wheat is extremely quick and easy to prepare. Just add boiling water and leave the grains to rest in it for 15 minutes, then drain the left over water using a colander. It is best to leave the prepared wheat to cool before mixing it with the vegetables as they will absorb the heat and lose their crispness. The vegetables used in Tabouli are best when finely chopped by hand as you don’t want them to lose their crunch or shape. This is because you don’t want too much liquid in the salad, and using a food processor will draw the water out of the vegetables.
Tabouli is often served in Romaine lettuce leaves as their firm structure creates an edible bowl for the salad. Pumpkin or sunflower seeds, pomegranate arils and poppy seeds are beautiful options for a garnish that will add a little extra crunch. The salad will keep nicely for up to a few days, be sure to refrigerate it and to drain excess liquid before doing so.
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