Tabbouleh makes me shake-shake my bootie

The backyard garden where I grew up on Wagon Wheel Lane presented me with one of my first love-hate relationships. I loved running out to the garden as my mother cooked dinner to bring in an abundance of vegetables. Loved having the garden as a scenic backdrop to my afternoon sunbathing (I started that at a young age….like the rhubarb in spring, I was an early bloomer—and there was no moratorium on sun in that era). Loved taking baskets of whatever we had too much of to the neighbors, especially Jimmy Georgi, the boy next door (though he preferred the chocolate chip cookies to the tomatoes).

But I hated all of the insects that hovered around and in the garden. Hated coming home from anywhere to find my siblings weeding the garden. That always meant someone was in trouble, and when one of the five of us was in trouble, we all were in trouble. Hated how dirty everything was, and how it got under my nails and wouldn’t come out (I discovered since then that this is the plight of anyone who works in the kitchen professionally).

All of that ambivalence melted away, though, when I pulled my chair up to the table for dinner. My mother knew how to coax the most flavor out of everything from the garden, which meant letting the natural taste shine through. We had salad with our dinner every night, made in Mom’s style: dressed directly on the salad without first emulsifying anything, with fresh lemon and oil, salt and pepper, a little garlic powder.

That dressing is like a go-to little black dress. It goes a lot of places, and there’s never a question about how it’s going to show. It’s the same dressing she makes for this wonderful tabbouleh salad, but we don’t use the garlic powder here (you could though, and it would be good). Lebanese tabbouleh is a lemony parsley salad with diced tomato, thin slices of scallion, mint, and a bit of soaked cracked wheat. We’ve all seen tabbouleh that is mostly white, a bulgur salad. Near East brand boxed grains makes a tabbouleh “wheat salad” that causes me shake my head every time I see it on the grocery store shelf. That’s what I get for veering from the perimeter.

I was reminded yesterday that tabbouleh makes people so happy that they dance and sing like crazy people about it. As in, “tabbouleh makes me shake-shake my bootie” happy. My 5-year-old nephew John turned into some kind of adult man getting down in a 70s disco club when he watched this with me; I wondered if I should run upstairs and put on that little black dress. If I hadn’t been laughing so hard I would have been concerned about the whole scene. So here’s a little something extra to give you all the tabbouleh love you want and need, even if you didn’t pick the ingredients from the garden yourself.

Tabbouleh is delicious on its own, eaten with thin pita bread so you can dip the bread in the juices on your plate. It is a perfect accompaniment to grilled meats, especially lamb chops or steaks. You can prep this salad a day in advance, combining ingredients along with the dressing just before serving.

2 cups chopped curly parsley, somewhere between coarsely and finely chopped (about 3 bunches)
1 cup seeded, diced tomato (¼” dice)
½ cup finely sliced scallions, white and green parts
¼ cup finely chopped mint
¼ cup bulghur, #1 fine grade cracked wheat
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the parsley the day before serving the tabbouleh.

Rinse the cracked wheat and cover with cold water just to the top of the bulghur. Soak for 15 minutes, until it is soft and plumped up. Pour off and squeeze out any excess water.

Combine the parsley, tomato, onion, and cracked wheat in a medium bowl. Add lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir, taste, and adjust seasoning.

A traditional way to serve and eat tabbouleh is on leaves of crisp romaine. This recipe makes about 1 quart, 4 servings.

Find a PDF of this recipe here.

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19 Responses to Tabbouleh makes me shake-shake my bootie

  1. Sue OConnor says:

    Exactly the same as my grandma’s recipe (except she always added cinnamon and allspice to the mix and preferred flat leaf parsley to curly, so now I feel like I gotta try it with curly!) Best food ever and I totally agree about needing the patience of a saint to prepare it properly!

  2. Betsy says:

    Don’t miss the link to the video above. It will make your day!

  3. Mary says:

    Maureen, this is the recipe I’ve been waiting for! Also, your childhood vegetable garden memories encourage me to keep trying veggies with my kids, who like to grow, but not eat them!

  4. Pam Ogle says:

    Maureen, you have a clever way with words. Loved the way wrrote about the memories you have of gathering vegetables from your mother’s garden. Keep writing!

  5. Christine Hogan says:

    onion powder is my mainstay in everything instead of garlic powder. particularly on regular salad with lemon oil dressing from your Aunt Peggy!

    • Maureen Abood says:

      I recall that Aunt Peg is an onion powder fan…I will try it instead of garlic powder in my next salad! The flavor of these powders are intense and delicious….

  6. Julie says:

    Maureen, I remember your Mom making this the first time I visited your home on Wagon Wheel! Everything she made was amazing, but this was my favorite! I will need to use tomatoes (if they ever ripen) and parsley from my garden to try this!

  7. Steve says:

    A properly prepared Tabbouleh goes exceptionally well with yellow squash medalions, about 3/8 to 1/2 inch thick, fried in a good olive oil, lightly salted and drizzled with Tahini sauce.

  8. Wade says:

    The thing with Tabbouleh is that recipes are very specific to the region of Lebanon, even different within families. Some areas in Lebanon use cinnamon (not where my people are from), others Pomegranate juice, and more just use the traditional Lemon juice and Olive Oil. When I do it, I do not use curly leaf parsley as it’s too bitter. I use flat leaf, and in addition to the ingredients in your recipe, I add finely chopped, seeded cucumber. I also add some allspice, Sumac, and because I grew up as a Lebanese in the Caribbean, some finely minced Scotch Bonnet or Habanero pepper.

  9. Geoff Batrouney says:

    This Aussie-Lebanese grew up on curly-leaf parsley, but when I first tasted Tabbouleh made with flat-leaf parsley I became an instant convert. Maureen, thank you for this simple, elegant recipe. I read recipes for Tabbouleh that have the most bizarre ingredients. You nailed it!

  10. Candice Cohlmia Unger says:

    Laughing so hard because your title made me remember the hysterical “Tabbouleh” video by Remy! Here is the link for you too!! So funny!!! I adore tabbouleh, especially in the summer.

  11. sandra wood says:

    maureen u r such a hoot !! in the 80′s if business was slow in my boutique the girls and i would stand in front of the mirrors and say o.k. shake your bootie …low and behold the business came flying in the door.

  12. Georgia says:

    I make my Tabooley in my Cousinart food processor. Parsley first because you don’t have to rinse the bowl. Then I quarter tomatoes and pulse several times. Also make salsa with same method. One day I am going to try Tabooley with cilantro. An adaptation of the wheat prep is boil 1 1/2 cups water. Put in larger bowl and add 1/4 cup evoo and 1/2 cup lemon juice and 1 t salt and pepper. Let soak 1 hour. All water and liquid absorbs into wheat! Delicious with a fork! While the wheat soaks you have time to do everything else. Side note: I make with curly parsley and what I bought this time was very strong and I did not like the bitterness of the parsley. Never had that problem before. Will try flat leaf next time. Some people put drained chick peas!


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