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Lebanon meets Italy; and I am not talking about the world cup

June 11, 2010

I grew up eating Tabbooleh and loved it. As I went to culinary school and worked in restaurants I had an epiphany that my childhood salad was actually one big garnish (the parsley). It made me appreciate how tasty something as simple as parsley can be when spiced properly. As I dove deeper into classic French cooking and then Italian and Mexican I started to fade from the Lebanese cuisine I grew up with. I am now enjoying coming up with my own “without borders” versions of the Lebanese classics. I made a cardamom bread salad and topped it with a sumac spiced Tabbooleh. It was such a delicious combination. I have always loved the Italian bread salad. Cubes of partially stale bread soaked with olive oil, vinegar, tomato and herbs. It is a natural to bring Tabbooleh into the mix. I sautéed cubes of rustic country bread with green cardamom (I broke five pods open and ground the seeds) and olive oil. The bread got a touch golden on the outside and had the hay-like, warming cologne-like smell of cardamom. I love when bread is chewy and crispy at the same time. For the Tabbooleh I mixed a small amount of soaked bulghar (1/8 C.) to 2 C. of halved, ripe, sweet cherry tomatoes, 1 C. chopped green onion, ½ C. shredded endive (I love the slightly bitter edge it brings as well as some firm texture) 2 TB shredded mint and of course 2 ½ C. Italian parsley. The key is to pull off the parsley leaves and create a pile. I then held the leaves as if I was grasping an apple and then with a very sharp knife sliced the pile into thin shreds. You can of course use a food processor but there is nothing like the clean, fresh firm strips of parsley to give the Tabbooleh a “chopped salad” texture that has body and holds the dressing well. My dressing was 2 oz. fresh lemon juice, 2 oz. evoo, 1 tsp sumac (a beautiful red powder made from ground berries. It has a bright red fruit citrus note to it and is often used in the Middle East), a ½ tsp white pepper and of course salt. I let the dressing sit separately to bring the flavors together. I then added the dressing to the parsley salad and let it marinade for an hour in the refrigerator. I spooned the tabbooleh over the bread and drizzled the whole plate with a touch more olive oil. I took a bite and the bread acted like a sponge absorbing the dressing of the tabbooleh and then filling my mouth with the lemon/scented sumac dressed parsley. The cardamom came in at the end and created a bridge between the bread and the tabbooleh. The bread was a little rich and crispy from the olive oil, which was balanced perfectly by the light, fresh chill of the tomatoes. Give sumac a try anytime you want to add acidity (think lemon juice) but with a dried berry spice. Great with artichokes and ricotta cheese or just to wake up vegetables like zucchini. I also love to stir it into yogurt and use it to top kabobs.

Eat Well, Enjoy life, Be happy

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Roger Saad permalink
    June 18, 2010 3:13 am

    You never cease inspiring me Jeff! Love you!

    • Jeffrey Saad permalink*
      June 18, 2010 12:10 pm

      Thanks brother!! Love ya, miss ya, can’t wait to get your update.

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