RECIPE: Flexible and economical, taboulleh is ideal for quarantine cooking

During the pandemic, my husband and I have tried to eat as healthfully as possible to avoid the “Quarantine 15.” Preparing salads with substance has been one of our strategies for not packing on the pounds.

The Middle Eastern dish taboulleh consists of bulgur wheat tossed with tomatoes, onions, a hefty helping of parsley — sometimes mint, too — and a simple dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. But like the many spellings of this grain salad — tabouli, tabuli, tabbouleh — the ingredients and their quantities can vary. As chef Michael Solomonov writes in his cookbook, “Zahav,” “In Israel, it is very unlikely you will find it made the same way in two kitchens.” He points out that in Galilee, tabbouleh is “nearly all parsley, seasoned with an ungodly amount of lemon juice.”

The flexibility of this economical grain salad makes it ideal for quarantine cooking. You could follow the lead of Einat Admony, chef and author of Israeli cookbook “Shuk,” and turn it into an autumnal superfood salad by using quinoa instead of bulgur, massaged kale instead of parsley, and sweetened dried cranberries to counter the bitterness of the grains and greens.

Admony adds crunch with sliced almonds. “Sababa” cookbook author Adeena Sussman likes pairing toasted pine nuts and almonds in her Super Nutty Avocado Tabbouleh recipe. Solomonov adds pomegranates when they are in season. I sometimes finish with a sprinkle of feta.

No matter the ingredients, I find that the result tastes best when the water weight is reduced. Let the bulgur drain well. Salt the diced cucumber and set that over a colander as well. If you have the time and inclination, seed the tomato (save the pulp for a separate cooking session). The salad will be lighter and drier, and the seasonings will shine brighter.

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Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

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