Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Classic Tabbouleh -- summer's bounty

by Leslie Budewitz

I used to be a good gardener. Then I signed two three-book mystery contracts, the garden flooded two years in a row, and my strawberry bed began to resemble a central Montana hayfield after fifty-mile winds and hail the size of golf balls.


But this year, I built a new bed and bought two itty bitty cucumber plants. Stuck three tomato starts in pots on the back porch. Bought parsley and thyme, and started basil in egg cartons.

And of course, neglect aside, there is mint. Three varieties. If you’ve ever grown mint, you’re wondering whatever possessed me. In my defense, only one is a planned plant—a lovely, bright green mint called Mojito. (And why, yes, it does make a fine cocktail.) The two unnamed varieties were gifts. (Gardeners are generous with starts. Some have a wicked glint in their eye. In climates like mine, in NW Montana, where herbs won’t survive the winter outside in pots, mint is best planted in large plastic buckets with the bottoms cut out and sunk into the herb bed.)

So, tomatoes, mint, and cukes gave me a craving for tabbouleh. This is basically Ina Garten’s recipe, with a few minor variations. She does a fabulous job with the classics, and this is an easy, yummy example. It’s terrific served on its own or on a bed of sturdy greens, and is a great side dish for kabobs, chicken, or salmon.

Classic Tabbouleh 

1 cup bulghur wheat (we used red bulghur because we had it; red or white will do)
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons), scant
1/4 cup olive oil
3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup green onions, white and green parts (1 bunch), chopped
1 cup fresh mint leaves (1 bunch, in the grocery store), chopped
1 cup Italian (flat leaf) parsley (1 bunch, in the grocery store), chopped
1 English cucumber or two green slicing cucumbers, unpeeled, diced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 Place the bulghur in a large bowl, pour in the boiling water, and add the lemon juice, olive oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Stir. Let sit at room temperature about 1 hour.

Add the onions, mint, parsley, cucumber, tomatoes, 2 teaspoons salt, and the pepper; mix well. Season, to taste, and serve or cover and refrigerate. The flavor will improve if the tabbouleh sits for a few hours.

Serves eight. This recipe keeps nicely in the fridge for 2-3 days, although the salt will draw some liquid off the cucumbers. If it seems like too much to stir in, spoon out as much liquid as you can and stir the rest into the salad.

From the cover of BUTTER OFF DEAD, third in the Food Lovers' Village Mysteries: As the national bestselling Food Lovers’ Village mysteries continue, the merchants of Jewel Bay, Montana try to heat up chilly winter business with a new film festival. But their plans are sent reeling when a dangerous killer dims the lights on a local mover and shaker …

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. She lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

Connect with her on her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.


  1. I feel your pain about too busy to garden Leslie! my hub wonders why I'm not out there weeding:). and he's been doing major battle with a family of woodchucks who decimate whatever comes up and then waddle off without shame.

    Now I want some of that Mojito mint!

  2. Ah, yes, I have mint--in a plastic pot. It's not going to migrate anywhere (although I'm still wondering how my chives manage to do it). Another lovely summer recipe from you!

  3. We grew mint and basil in window boxes in our kitchen. No matter what we did they'd both die after our first cuttings of them took place. Yet my sister in law has 2 raised beds, and plants all around the edge of her backyard out in Queens, NY. I guess my partner and I both have black thumbs.

    1. Hmm, Nora, I'm wondering about your window boxes. Basil can be tricky, but mint -- although they are related -- is typically a sturdy perennial. So two options: check your soil and drainage, and check a garden book on harvest technique -- you may be cutting them back too far. Or just get what you need from your sister!

  4. What a blast of freshness this must be.
    I used to have apple mint. It was lovely.

    1. Libby, apple mint? Must look for some to try!

  5. Yum! Thanks for the recipe! Our garden has good years and bad. This has been a great year for our zucchini, but not as good for our peppers. We always start out with such high hopes!

    1. The gardener's credo: "Next year..."

      Enjoy the tabbouleh!

  6. Oh, yum! I haven't eaten tabbouleh in years. Thanks for the reminder. I'll have to try this recipe. We had a disaterous garden this year, I think we have something that's causing tomato blight. Only the sage and basil look good.

    1. Blight? Oh, no! Sometimes it's in the air, sometimes in the soil, so let's hope this is a one-time thing.

  7. I absolutely love the idea of gardening and admire every beautiful inch of the ones I see. But I am not good on the follow through. My own garden became a thriving bed of weeds this year as I was just too busy (and disinclined) to tend it. It has now been cleaned out and maybe next year .. . . . .??

    1. "Next year country"! -- the phrase often applied to farmers on the plains. Sounds like we all agree, it works for gardens, too!