Saturday, July 3, 2010

Arlette's Tabouli

I'm calling this Arlette's tabouli in honor of Arlette.  Arlette is the Lebanese mammy who has lived in Paris the past 20 years and who had been taking my Monday night cooking lessons at the Centre Vercingétorix all year long.  Classes are now over, following the schedule of the vacances scholaire (school vacation).

One of our last lessons was called simply Mezze.  I brought my three recipes that night:  tabouli, cucumber-yogurt-mint salad, and hummus.  The week before everyone had enthusiastically agreed to the idea of doing these Mediterranean inspired salads, or Mezze ( it is for eastern Mediterranean foods what Tapas is to the Spanish....small appetizer dishes that can be served with a drink as a starter to a meal, or with enough, they can become the meal itself).

I really needn't have brought recipes because shortly after we got started, it became apparent that Arlette was going to lead this class!  Not out of some arrogant desire to take control or show the others what she could, not at all.  That is the complete opposite of this woman, who is naturally quiet, patient, and respectful.  In fact, I was happy to see this more assertive Arlette who had seemed all year long willing to do the last tasks no one else volunteered for (peeling onions, cleaning lettuce, chopping garlic, etc).  Rather, her quiet leadership gradually and naturally happened - from someone who has made these dishes all her life, a million times or more, methodically and confidently, with no recipe at all in mind!

So, I share this Mezze in honor of Arlette.  It represents to me the thousands of other recipes that are borne out of tradition, passed down from generation to generation.  In actuality, my recipe & hers are not much different except Arlette doesn't boil the water to soften the bulghur.  (And now I don't either!)  I've included quantities from my own recipe as a basic guideline.  Use it & adjust to your own taste preferences.

Ingredients - 6 servings

200g bulgur, fine
water to cover the bulgur by 2-3 inches (5-8 cm)
250g tomatoes, diced
55g spring onion
75 - 100g lemon juice
75 - 100g olive oil
1/2 bouquet of fresh mint
1 - 1.5 bouquets of fresh, flat-leaf parsley
salt, pepper

  1. Rinse bulgur well with water.  Place in a large bowl & cover with tap water.  Let sit for about 20 - 30 minutes or until bulgur is softened.
  2. Peel, seed & dice the tomato (or simply dice without peeling & seeding, if you prefer).
  3. Finely chop the spring onion.
  4. Clean & dry the herbs & then finely chop.
  5. After bulgur is ready, drain any excess water.  Add the tomatoes, onions, lemon juice, olive oil mint, parsley, salt & pepper.  Mix together well.  Adjust seasoning as desired (add more lemon juice & olive oil if too dry;  make sure it's salted & peppered enough).
p.s. An authentic libanese tabouli does not have cucumber, chick peas or anything else added.  Feel free, if you like!  I don't mind.  But Arlette might!  ;)

 An idea of what else you can do with Tabouli:  
1st course:  Tian de tabouli, orange, guacamole & crab