Too Hot To Cook Two- Tabbouleh
Once again I have spent so much time tending and harvesting the Food It Yourself garden that I have not had the time to actually blog about it! We are staring down a couple of rainy days, though, which gives me the time to share another cooking adventure that happened between the garden and the dinner table.
We are still contending with hot days here in central New England, even though the average daily high temperatures are trending downward. On a recent too-hot-to-cook night I made a big batch of tabbouli, or tabouli, or tabbouleh, or tabouleh depending on who you ask. If you are not familiar with this dish, it is a salad made of bulgur wheat (more on that in a bit), tomato, cucumber, parsley, and mint seasoned with lemon and olive oil. Its origins are in the Middle East. I used some of my bumper crop of cherry tomatoes, and sprigs of my extra-prolific parsley. No cucumbers from the garden that day, but my local produce stand had some native salad cukes for a very low price.
So, what is bulgur wheat? It is coarsely crushed, par-cooked whole wheat grains. The par-cooking is the important part as it allows the grain to cook very quickly. In this heat? That is a wonderful thing!
Traditionally, lemon juice is used in the dressing for tabouli. I do things a little differently. Most people would use four cups of water to cook two cups of bulgur. I used three and a half cups of water and one half cup lemon juice. This ensures that the grain soaks up all the lemony goodness and prevents a sour puddle in the bottom of the salad bowl. Yes, I unapologetically use bottled lemon juice. If your guests can tell it was from a bottle, send them out in the woods to sniff for truffles. SERIOUSLY, NOBODY WILL NOTICE!
Boil the lemon and water in a pot that is a little bigger than you think you will need. The bulgar will expand. Once a boil is reached, add the measured bulgar, cut the heat, and put the lid on the pot. That is all the “cooking” you need to do to make tabbouleh. See why this is such a good recipe for the hot weather?
While the bulgar was absorbing the hot liquid I stepped out into the garden to gather the herbs and veggies.
I found plenty of cherry tomatoes ripe for the picking, as well as a small bell pepper that had a hole in it. I decided we needed to eat the pepper before it rotted, so I chopped it and added it to the quartered cherry tomatoes, diced cucumber, and minced parsley. You can eyeball these. It is a salad, not a souffle. I used all of the cherry tomatoes I picked that day and one small salad cucumber. There was about a cup of minced parsley. Besides, it’s really hot and digging out the measuring cups takes work. I decided to leave out the mint, as it aggravates my acid reflux. Call that heresy against tabouleh, but it is my dinner and my esophagus, so it is my rules. You could also add some finely diced onion if you want. Again, my tummy does not get along with raw onion these days, so I left it out.
Now, for the last bit of work you have to suffer through in this darn heat. Mix the cooked bulgur with the veggies and herbs. Drizzle with olive oil, season to taste with salt and pepper. There you go, you have tuhboolee. Chill until it is time to eat. Like most dishes that involve blended flavors this is even better the next day.
On the hottest days of the summer a DIY dinner (and lunch the next day) is still within reach with minimal discomfort. All it takes is a little know-how and a stocked pantry. A supply of rapidly ripening garden produce helps, too.
Tabbuli is one of my favorite plant-to-plate summer dishes. What is your favorite thing to make with your harvest? Share in the comments!