Friday, February 24, 2012

Food on Friday: tabbouleh, aka our favorite dinner ever

People think I'm French.  All the time.  It's' really weird.  I don't know a word of French and I do not like stinky cheese.

Or they think I am Spanish.  When I lived in Spain for a while, no one ever suspected that I was a foreigner.  They stopped to ask me for directions and always looked surprised when what came out of my mouth was a horrid excuse for their beautiful language.  But, I love Spain and Spanish women are oh so cool.  I really like it when people mistake me for a Spaniard.

Sometimes, they think I am Italian.  Obviously, no one ever thinks I am German. 

But no one ever guesses what I really am: a combination of Swedish and Lebanese.  (Which as gas station attendant once told me meant I was French, anyway.)

The funny thing about being both Swedish and Lebanese--aside from constantly being mistaken for a sultry European--is that you grow up eating a lot of different kinds of foods.   For example, my Swedish grandpa makes excellent Swedish coffee cake and Swedish pancakes.  (He also always tried to get us to eat pickled herring.  Um, no, gramps.  It only worked on poor Peter, who eats anything and who's mom is Scandinavian, too.)  However,  when I visited my grandparents on the other side of the family, it was always hummus, pita bread and tabbouleh.  And, my dad has stories about how his grandma, or his Sitto) used to smoke a water pipe.

The food from the kitchens of both of my sets of grandparents is like a blankie for my soul.  It makes me feel happy, warm, safe and loved and I know that the special ingredient (unfortunately unavailable in supermarkets)  has always been little pieces of my grandparents' hearts.  So, of course, when I moved to Germany and started my life with Peter, I had to share some of the love with him.  Because my Swedish grandpa is still alive, he's had the opportunity to taste Grandpa's freshly made coffee cake and some pickled herring to boot.  But, with both my grandparents on my dad's side gone, I have had to do my best to recreate some of their recipes.

From the moment Peter first had tabbouleh and hummus, he was obsessed.  He loved it as much as I did.  I was surprised, quite honestly, because it is nothing like what Germans are used to.  But, he's an adventurous eater  and enjoyed the freshness of both foods.

Then, for a while last summer, he tried out the vegan thing.  Tabbouleh and hummus became our go-to foods.  They are vegan and, I believe, gluten free (great for all you health nuts) and, there is almost no cooking involved.  We tend not to eat them as often in the winter--winter in Germany requires soup--but love them in the summer.  I would pair them with whole wheat (or gluten free) pita bread for a really fresh and healthy meal. The chickpeas in the hummus provide a lot of protein and, while I am not a nutritionist, I imagine there are a lot of vitamins in the tabbouleh.  Of course, if you can't live without the meat, you could serve them as side dishes to cinnamon chicken (yes, try's Delicious), pork or a real Middle Eastern specialty, lamb. 

I have tried to find the tabbouleh recipe that reminds me most of the kind my dad's family makes.  Because I tend to make tabbouleh on the fly and don't have bulgar around, I often substitute quick cooking couscous.  I don't really notice a difference, since I like my tabbouleh light on the bulgar/couscous and heavy on the greens.

This is a great, healthy spring/summer dinner (we're getting there!) and I hope you enjoy it.



1 cup of fine bulgar wheat (or quick cooking couscous)
3 bunches of parsley
1 bunch of fresh mint
4 tomatoes
4 green onions or 1 white onion
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt (I use pepper, too)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Wash the bular wheat in a deep dish by filling it with water and gently pouring out the water so that it will take away any impurities. Leave the bulgar to soak in cold water for 30 min.  (If you are using couscous, cook it according to the instructions on the package and let it cool completely before mixing it with other ingredients.) Finely dice the tomatoes and onion and chop the parsley and mint. Mix together the oil, salt and lemon for the sauce. Squeeze the bulgar wheat between your hands to press out the water and mix all the ingredients together.  Serve with pita bread. 

Tabbouleh and cinnamon chicken.  Oh, and in Germany we serve our tabbouleh with tortillas because we have yet to find pita bread anywhere.  Maybe someday, I will try my hand at that, too. 

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