A Middle Eastern Feast

One of my all-time favorite foods is falafel. You want to make me mad, tell me you just ate the best falafel you've ever had and I'm fuming...with jealousy!

But anything in the world of Middle Eastern food works for me. Is it the creaminess of it all, the layers of flavors or the vegetable-centric recipes, the saltiness of the feta, the amazing textures, the freshness of the ingredients or is it perhaps the essence of lemon in everything?

Whatever it is, it's magical food in my world.

So when I bartered two bags of Cowgirl Granola for a leg of lamb at a special farmers market last year, I knew it would be a perfect centerpiece to a Middle Eastern feast. And was I right.

On Friday, I spent a glorious day in the kitchen cooking dinner for David and one of our newest friends (although it seems we've known each other forever), as well as whipping up two batches of cookies (oatmeal-raisin and a fab gluten-free cookie recipe) for another friend and her daughter, who is recovering from surgery.

I  made hummus, tabouli, baba ganoush, tzatziki sauce and a delicious feta salsa and David grilled the leg of lamb—and the eggplants for the baba ganoush.

Since our friend lives close to a Middle Eastern market, I asked her to bring the pita bread and she arrived laden with a bag full of tantalizing treats—fresh feta, Labneh (which is a yogurt cheese and thick like Greek yogurt, but better), fried onions, several kinds of breads and these incredibly tasty little pastry pockets chock-full of potatoes and spices—thus making our Friday night feast even more spectacular!

While I have been making tabouli since the early 90's, my recipe calls for cooking the cracked (or bulghar) wheat in broth, which can make it a bit soggy. And since our friend is a full on foodie, food writer and lover of all things food, I decided this was a perfect opportunity for me to find a new recipe.

I came across one from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, and because her philosophy is a lot like mine—use the freshest and best ingredients and cook simply, I decided to give it a try.

David keeps saying this is the best tabouli he's ever had...and he's not always so generous with superlatives. But I have to agree with him. It's perfectly al dente, lemony, just the right amount of olive oil and was quite a great addition to our memorable feast!

Buen provecho!

Tabouli or Tabbouleh
Adapted by The Cowgirl Gourmet from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa

Print Recipe

1 cup bulghar/cracked wheat
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (approx. 2 lemons)
1/4 cup good EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
2 1/2 teaspoons salt, Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup minced Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup chopped green onions (white and green parts) or red onion
1 hot house or regular cucumber, peeled, seeded and medium-diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half or quartered
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the bulghar wheat in a large bowl, pour in the boiling water and add the lemon juice, salt and EVOO. Stir to combine and allow to rest at room temperature for at least an hour or up to an hour and a half.

The bulghar wheat will soak up the liquid during this time, but if any excess liquid remains, simply drain wheat in a colander and place the wheat back in the bowl.

Add the cucumber, tomatoes, scallions and the pepper and mix well. Season to taste, cover and refrigerate. The flavor will improve once the tabouli sits for a few hours.

Remove from refrigerator before serving, taste again and add a little more salt, lemon or olive oil, if desired.

Serve with warm pita bread, pita chips and/or endive leaves.
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