Lately, I’ve been thinking about how different this year has been for so many of us.
Life is full of changes; some uncomfortable and inevitable. But I am optimistic, because change pushes us to find strength and character that we may not have known we had.
After years of unending travels, 2020 has given to me the gift of time at home, and we are thankful for it. So, my husband and I decided to grow a garden.
As we were harvesting, I started to consider what could be made with the day’s fresh pickings: cucumbers, different varieties of tomatoes, parsley, mint and cilantro. Then I realized I had all the ingredients to make my favorite Lebanese salad, tabbouleh!
I began to remember back to about a year ago, we were visiting the country of Lebanon. It’s a small country with a large history that goes back ages – historically known as Phoenicia, it is actually one of the oldest known civilizations in the world.
I reveled in the hours-long conversations I often had with wonderful Lebanese friends, seated around a large table while having a big delicious meal and Lebanese coffee, talking and laughing together.
From our very first meal in Lebanon, I realized the perfect balance in ingredients. From one of the most delicious lamb dishes I have ever eaten, to fresh salads. The meals continued to make a perfect symphony.
During one of those late nights enjoying a feast with some friends, I ate the best tabbouleh salad ever. I asked who had made it, and my friend, Zareh, replied, “The queen of the salads made it!” as he pointed to Carmen.
Carmen and her husband, Adel, and the rest of their group of close friends shared a pure love with us in a way that marked my heart forever. That night, Carmen promised to teach me how to make tabbouleh, and a few weeks later, she delivered her promise.
Now, every time I make tabbouleh I think about Carmen and Adel and all the wonderful friends we made during our time in Lebanon.
As with many amazing recipes that have been executed and perfected with time and practice, there were not exact measurements for this recipe, only estimations and approximations based on flavor, aroma and texture.
But I did my best to measure out the ingredients to the best of my ability to emulate the flavors I remember from the queen’s recipe. Here is my closest version of the recipe, shared with much respect and love for my Lebanese friends and as a way to honor the wonderful heritage of their culture.
1 cup of chopped parsley (About a bunch)
½ cup of chopped mint
½ Onion, chopped in very small pieces
2 Large tomatoes, chopped
A handful of bulgur (fine type)**
Juice of 2 lemons (about 1.5 oz)
¼ teaspoon of seven spices***
1 tbsp sumac*
A dash of Chili powder
A dash of salt
Olive oil to taste.
* Sumac can be found in most international sections of supermarkets or in international markets.
** Bulgur is a cereal made from dried cracked wheat; it is a common ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine and in the U.S. it can be found in the international section of supermarkets or international markets.
*** If you don’t have “seven spices” you can make your own. Mix a dash of each of the following ingredients: black pepper, cumin, paprika, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and cardamom.
Don’t worry if you don’t have some of these ingredients. Add the ones you have in your pantry and the salad will be just fine.
This is an easy salad, follow these three simple steps in their order and enjoy!
1. In a large bowl add onion with sumac, seven spices, chili powder and salt. Mix well.
2. Add parsley and tomatoes, mix well.
3. Once all the ingredients are very well mixed, add lemon and olive oil. Taste and adjust seasonings.
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