Tuesday, June 14, 2011

After two weeks of eating out more than usual, I jumped back into the kitchen this weekend.

My husband and I decided we need to start exercising more often and eat healthier to rid the extra pounds put on by our recent vacations and some of the Turkish food that we love such as bread, cheese, gözlemepidesigara böreği, baklava, desserts, etc.

Indulging in too many carbohydrates became a problem for me once I turned 30. My no-fail metabolism just doesn’t work as well as it once did. So now, I’ll just need to watch what I eat for awhile.

On Saturday, we stocked up on fresh fruits and vegetables at the Beşiktaş pazar. I ended up with 2 very large bunches of maydanoz (Italian parsley), and I knew exactly what I would make with it - Tabbouleh. A traditional Lebanese Tabbouleh is a healthy, green, herbal salad where bulgur and tomatoes are used as the garnishes and not the other way around.

Shortly after I first arrived in  Istanbul, I took a Lebanese cooking class through the IWI. A Lebanese expat living in Istanbul taught us how to make Tabbouleh, Mdardara and several other Lebanese dishes. Then, in February, during my intensive Turkish language classes, one of my fellow classmates, Mehmet, was from Lebanon. He knew I enjoyed cooking and asked his mother back home to share her Tabbouleh recipe with me. Now, I have two different recipes to use as references in my kitchen.

Parsley is the main star in Tabbouleh. This leafy herb also is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and folic acid, one of the most important B vitamins. 
I’ve eaten more parsley this past year than I ever have in my entire life, often chopping up some to mix in with my roka and tomato salads. One cup of parsley contains only 22 calories, but 2 grams each of fiber and protein.

Tabbouleh is a simple recipe with seven basic ingredients - parsley, mint, tomatoes, onion, olive oil, lemon juice and fine bulgur. We enjoyed eating this salad two nights in a row.

Chopping the parsley and mint is what takes the most time. I found the best way to clean the herbs was to line the basket of my salad spinner with paper towels, place the chopped parsley and mint inside, rinse and spin until the herbs were fairly dry. You lose some of the herbs in the process, but it's much easier to chop the herbs first and then wash them.

Next time, instead of treating parsley as an unwelcome garnish, use this herb to make a delicious and nutritional salad.

Afiyet olsun!

Tabbouleh Salad
Serves 6 to 8

2 ½ bunches fresh Italian parsley, washed and finely chopped
½ bunch fresh mint, washed and finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 small onion, finely diced

50 g. finely cracked bulgur (köftelik bulgur)
50 ml. olive oil
50 ml. fresh lemon juice
My additions:
pinch dried sumac (This red, tart spice, often used in Middle Eastern cooking, is derived from the berry of a plant called Rhus coriaria.)
Generous drizzle Nar ekşisi sos
To taste salt and pepper

1. Cover the bulgur with hot water and let sit for at least 15 minutes. The grains will swell up as it rests. Drain the bulgur in a strainer, pressing on it to remove any excess water.
2. Place the parsley, mint, tomatoes and onion in a large bowl, gently mix.
3. Then, add the bulgur, olive oil, lemon juice and other seasonings as you desire. Season with salt and pepper. Gently mix again.
4. Line a platter with clean lettuce leaves and arrange the Tabbouleh on top of them.
This is the original recipe from my classmate, Mehmet, who is from Lebanon.

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Simcha said...

I love parsley too. It was always a staple in our house when I was younger as my father had an extensive herb garden. You have the proportions down as it is always supposed to have more parsley than bulgur. Looks great!

Joy said...

Thank you! I am growing parsley in my herb box too so I will have a little just when I need it. =)

Ozlem's Turkish Table said...

Delicious Joy! Love all the freshness of this salad!:)

Joy said...

@Ozlem, so do I! Our tomatoes aren't the best here yet, but the salad still went well with my loquat kebabs! :-)