Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Grandma Rose's Tabbouleh

Aaaaaas promised! It's not summer in my house until a big bowl of my Grandma Rose's tabbouleh resides in my fridge. We usually ate this alongside "grape leaf rolls" (dolmades) - which we have pictures of me rolling in my high chair - and "tortillas" (fresh-baked pita bread), and for dessert, cream of wheat cookies (a version of mamoul my Grandma's family invented with the new ingredients available in the New World). Grandma's Lebanese background plus Grandpa's Mexican/Southwestern background meant we didn't always call things by their traditional names, or even in the right language. I always wondered why the tortillas we used for tacos and stacked enchiladas were so different from the pocketed ones my grandma made. Hmmm. Things make so much more sense as an adult.

Anyway, this week I didn't go all out with the big feast, much to the husband man's chagrin. This fresh, whole grain salad suited my cravings to perfection all by itself. With ripe tomatoes, a tart lemon dressing, filling garbanzo beans, and plenty of fresh herbs, this salad stands up well as a lunch entree, or even a hearty breakfast.

Sorry no specific recipe. Grandma likes to keep her recipes in the family. But here are a few tips if you want to give your own version a shot at home.
  1. Go heavy on the grain. Restaurants always seem to use more parsley than bulgar. I don't know if one way is more traditional than the other, or if their way is typically Greek and ours is more Lebanese. Just speculation. Whatever the reason, it's not Grandma Rose's Tabbouleh if the cracked wheat doesn't get top billing.

  2. Invest in a garlic press. Between owning a garlic press and my discovery of pre-peeled tubs of garlic cloves in my grocer's fridge, my prep time has dramatically decreased. All those years I spent peeling, mincing, and crushing garlic by hand - a total waste. The first time I used a garlic press reminded me of the time my mom let me chop a massive amount of nuts for baklava (which we pronounce "bah-LAY-way") using a little hand chopper. Only after I finished, my wrist ACHING, did she mention that I could have used the food processor. Oh really, Mom? So, I wonder, why did no one tell me about garlic presses sooner? Clean hands, one step, way easier to mash into salt. Sigh.

  3. Crush crush crush! Crushing the garlic with a press isn't just easier, it releases all the juices for a heartier flavor than mincing. Similarly, crush the chopped herbs with the flat end of a knife to release all the fragrant, flavorful oils.

  4. Think FRESH! Fresh mint, fresh parsley, fresh lemon juice, fresh tomatoes, fresh onions. In a pinch, we've all subbed canned, dried, or bottled options. It's just not the same.

  5. Go for quality. Nice olive oil (my family tends to go for strong, even pungent, olive oils) and the best tomatoes enhance the dish tremendously.
But even if you don't want to enter the tabbouleh fray yourself, fret not. I may not feel comfortable posting my Grandma's recipe online for all the world, but I'm more than happy to share the food. Friends are more than welcome to come over and partake! I make the whole feast at least a couple times a year; it's a Christmas Eve tradition. There's always more than enough to go around.

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