Which cuisine, if any, would you choose to consume only for the rest of your life? Hard question, I know. I’d have to go for Mediterranean cuisine. Olive oil, feta, lemons, fresh herbs, and lush produce? Please, yes. Please order all the salads. All of my favorite ingredients are at a party when I cook in the Mediterranean style.
I was delighted to discover Rose Water and Orange Blossoms, Maureen Abood’s latest (and first!) cookbook, given my preference for Mediterranean cuisine. It is jam-packed with new and time-tested dishes from Maureen’s Lebanese-American cuisine. Consider kibbeh, labneh, hummus, and the more beautiful tomato salads. It also has a good selection of traditional breads, pickles, teas, and desserts. I just glanced at the section on meaty entrées because the book wasn’t written for vegetarians, but that’s just me.
I adore Maureen’s reverence for traditional Lebanese cuisine and the cute little modifications she adds to some of her recipes to keep them loyal to the originals while still making them a little more distinctive. She added diced avocado to the traditional tabbouleh salad to give it more richness and served it as an appetizer in lettuce cups. Brilliant.
Be aware that this salad takes some time to prepare, but it is well worth the effort. Both the parsley and the bulgur can be prepared beforehand. If you need a gluten-free substitution for bulgur, I would recommend using roughly 1/2 cup cooked quinoa (just a little will do, as this classic tabbouleh salad features far more parsley than grains). You are welcome to serve it in tiny lettuce cups as an appetizer or as a salad.
Check try this crispy baked falafel, Lebanese bean salad, green goddess hummus, and Greek broccoli salad if you’re craving more Mediterranean food as I am right now. All of those, in my opinion, go well together. More meals with a Mediterranean influence here!
Also read: Greek Farro Salad
- ⅓ cup #1 fine grade bulgur (see notes for how to turn coarse bulgur into fine)
- 2 to 3 bunches curly parsley (to yield 2 cups finely chopped parsley)
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, diced into ¼-inch wide rounds
- 1 ripe avocado, diced
- 5 scallions (green onions), sliced thinly crosswise
- 4 large sprigs fresh mint leaves, finely chopped (to yield ¼ cup chopped mint)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup fresh lemon juice, to taste (about 1 to 2 medium lemons, juiced)
- ¼ teaspoon salt, more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- To serve as lettuce cups: 1 head butter lettuce or 2 heads Little Gem romaine, rinsed and dried
- Rinse the bulgur a couple of times in a small bowl, letting the bulgur settle for a few seconds before pouring off the water (I used a fine-mesh colander to catch the bulgur when I poured off the water). Add enough fresh water to just cover the bulgur and soak for 30 minutes, or until it is softened. Pour off and squeeze out any excess water.
- While the bulgur softens, prepare the parsley. Rinse it well, then dry it in a salad spinner and then gently squeeze it in clean kitchen towels to get rid of any remaining moisture. Or, you can wrap the damp parsley in clean kitchen towels and gently squeeze out excess water, repeating as necessary. The drier the parsley, the easier it will be to chop up and the better your tabbouleh will be.
- Pinch off the curls of parsley from their stems. Chop the curls in two or three batches with a large chef’s knife until it’s finely chopped.
- In a medium serving bowl, combine the parsley, tomato, avocado, scallions, mint and bulgur. Stir in the olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, salt, garlic powder and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more lemon and salt if needed. Let the tabbouleh rest for about 15 minutes to give the bulgur time to soak up the flavors.
- Serve the tabbouleh as a salad immediately. Or, to serve as lettuce cups: pull the leaves from your lettuce and arrange the nicest, most cup-like leaves on a platter. Fill each cup with a big spoonful of the tabbouleh and serve immediately.