This classic vegetarian salad has traveled well through countless decades!
A good while back in my early adult life, my first vegetarian cookbook was the Moosewood Cookbook by Molly Katzen. If you are of my generation, you probably had it on your shelf too. It was certainly my first experience attempting meatless meals beyond baked beans and corn chowder. Many of recipes I fell in love with and made again and again – the Mushroom Moussaka, Gado Gado, and Lentil Nut Burgers were among my favorites. The recipes often borrowed from many cultures, and to my delight many included lots of cheese!
Tabouli enters the scene
I also loved the Mid Eastern Tabouli (tabbouleh) having never even heard of it before! I made this dish frequently, using the traditional bulgur, and it often appeared at potlucks and family gathering. It holds up well, has tons of flavor, and can also be both a side dish or main course. You can add cucumbers, sometimes tomatoes, or both, or neither. It was a delightful salad that makes good use of what you have in the refrigerator. Necessary are the herbs and lemon, but beyond that you have a blank canvas to fill.
A little more flavor
Over the years, I’ve bumped up the lemon, mint, and garlic. I added the zest of the citrus as well as the juice which makes a big difference. I also swapped out fresh mint for the dried and used a lot of that, and increased the garlic to three or four fat cloves. For interest, this time around I added some pumpkin seeds for crunch and a jalapeño pepper for a little heat!
Why not wheat berries?
My biggest switch was using wheat berries rather than the usual bulgur. Wheat berries are the entire edible part of the wheat, raw, the only thing removed is the husk. All other parts of the wheat kernel remain intact, the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. It has a lovely texture and nutty flavor.
Bulgur vs. wheat berries
They start out the same, the kernel of the wheat plant. However, bulgur wheat gets parboiled and dried which means a shorter cooking time. Wheat berries have a little more protein than bulgur, but not by a lot, so you can certainly interchange the two in this salad and most preparations once cooked. You could also substitute cracked wheat, which is bulgur wheat that has not been pre-cooked, quinoa, or even whole-grain rice.
A local delight
The wheat berries I use are from the Nitty Gritty Grain Co. of Vermont, hard red winter wheat. The time to cook the berries will vary greatly; mine took about 50 minutes to cook, but the variety you use could take less or even quite more.
Save a step
In the original recipe, Katzen combined the cooked bulgur, lemon juice, garlic, dried mint, scallions, and olive oil and let it marinate for several hours, then added everything else. I just mixed everything together, tucked it away to chill, and called it a day.
Wheat Berry Tabouli
- 1 cup hard red winter wheat berries
- 3 cups water
- Pinch of salt
- ¼ cup fruity olive oil
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Zest of two lemons
- 1 jalapeño pepper, minced
- 1 large firm tomato, seeded and chopped (I used an heirloom yellow)
- ¾ cup fresh parsley, finely minced
- ¼ cup fresh mint, finely minced
- 3 fat cloves of garlic, pressed
- 2 large scallions, minced
- ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
- 1 cup chickpeas
- Olives to garnish
- Rose petals, and fresh edible flowers to garnish, optional
Combine the wheat berries, water, and salt, and bring to a simmer. Cook until the berries are chewy, but tender. This will vary; mine took about 50 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, zest, pepper, tomato, parsley, mint, garlic, scallions, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, and salt and pepper.
Once the berries are cooked, use a slotted spoon if there is any liquid left, and add to the rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Taste and correct the seasoning, it will probably need more of both salt and pepper.
Refrigerate for at least three hours so everyone can get well acquainted.
To serve, place in a bowl and garnish with the olives. If you are feeling festive, add the rose petals and flowers. Alternately, you can add Feta or vegan Feta crumbled on top.
Original Moosewood Cookbook Tabouli
- 1 cup dry bulghar wheat
- 1 ½ cups boiling water
- 1 ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ cup fresh lemon or lime juice
- 1 heaping tsp. fresh garlic
- ½ cup chopped scallions, whites and greens
- ½ tsp. dried mint
- ¼ cup good olive oil
- 2 medium tomatoes, diced
- 1 packed freshly chopped parsley
- Optional: ½ cup cooked chickpeas. 1 chopped green pepper, 1 chopped cucumber or squash, ½ cup grated carrot.
Soak the bulgur in the boiling water for 20 minutes or until chewable. Add the juice, garlic, scallions, mint, and olive oil and marinate for 2 to 3 hours. Add the fresh vegetables. Garnish with feta and olives.
© Copyright 2022– or current year, The New Vintage Kitchen. Unattributed use of this material is strictly prohibited. Reposting and links may be used, provided that credit is given to The New Vintage Kitchen, with active link and direction to this original post.
The New Vintage Kitchen does not accept ads or payment for mention of products or businesses.