Monday, October 02, 2006

Breaking Free

I first experienced communal living and tabouli at my second college.

Along with people who played soccer indoors, with a real soccer ball, using things like the fireplace for a goal. While listening to The Grateful Dead non-stop for days at a time.

After working up an appetite with the soccer ball, everyone gathered around the kitchen for some sort of ‘stir-fry’, which was just another word for random fridge leftovers heated up in a Wok with soy sauce added to help kill the bacteria. Or on rare occasions they made some sort of grainy dish, such as some variation of tabouli.

Because the 60’s still held sway, and everyone was still in a sort of Haight-Ashbury back-to-nature mode. Vegetarian concepts were big. Anything that could possibly be somehow connected to India, considered the Mac Daddy of vegetarianism and alternative living, was on the agenda and menu. Tabouli, probably Lebanese in origin, was close enough for the addled brains of everyone at that time. Most living in that house would have been hard pressed to find India on a map, let alone Lebanon. Finding the US might have been a challenge as well.

Good times, good times!

So I sort of associate Tabouli with that youthful striving for freedom. Breaking free. From what, I can’t quite remember. Oppressors, in any event.

I guess from the oppressive clampdown on indoor soccer playing in most homes across the country. As usual, the wealthy land baron parents holding down the exuberant youthful masses. No wonder soccer never caught on in this country!

It was only a matter of time before TeenGirl, pursuing her current interest in all things whole grain, hit upon Tabouli. That bulgur-based grain salad with tomatoes, cucumber, parsley and lemon. Bulgur being readily available in stores here.

So that reminded me of those times. Kind of a culinary coming of age. Breaking free from the childhood wonder bread and Campbell’s soup to experience the heady flavors of these cultures that, in our eyes, embodied the very freedom we thought we were looking for.

Bulgur, not to be confused with cracked wheat, is pre-cooked whole wheat berries that have been dried, crushed lightly, and sorted by sifting into various sizes of particles. Some bulgur has the bran removed, some is whole grain. Because the wheat has already been par-boiled, the bulgur need only be soaked in hot water, much like couscous. It does not require long cooking times. Cracked wheat is a raw product that, much like raw wheat berries, requires substantial cooking times.

Our bulgur did not indicate what type of wheat grain it came from, but I understand most bulgur is made with durum wheat. Because it is whole grain, it has a low glycemic index.

Fairly simple to make, the only real trick is to taste frequently to ensure you get enough flavor into the dish. Letting the salad sit a few hours, or even over night, allows the garlic to really come alive and permeate everything. The garlic gets a nice balance from a ton of parsley, some fresh mint, and lots of lemon juice.

We served the tabouli salad with a roasted salmon fillet. Low fat, full of energy and nutrition. Quick and easy to make. A delicious way to make break through the oppressive bonds and experience the heady flavor of freedom in your kitchen!

Tabouli Salad
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4 as a side dish

2 cups whole grain bulgur
4 cups boiling water
4-5 tomatoes, chopped
2 cucumbers, seeded and chopped
2 green onions, chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups parsley, chopped
1 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
1-2 tbsp salt
juice from 2 lemons
olive oil

Place the bulgur in a heat proof bowl, and pour in boiling water. Let the bulgur soak for 30 to 60 minutes, covered.

Drain the bulgur, and transfer to a serving bowl. Add all remaining ingredients except olive oil. Toss. Drizzle with olive oil to taste. Toss well. Chill for several hours, or over night. Taste, and adjust seasonings as necessary. Toss well. Serve. Enjoy!

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