[This fragment is available in an audio version.]
This is a recipe I dreamed up that has pleased the family twice now. It’s pretty easy to make and has lots of room for creative variation. The name is probably controversial. Let me lead off with a picture.
Wikipedia says Tabbouleh is Levantine but I grew up in Lebanon and I’ve never had really first-rate Tabbouleh anywhere else, except for the version my Mom makes. Tabbouleh is a salad centered around parsley, bulgur, and tomatoes.
What happened was, I had bacon that I was going to make breakfast with but didn’t, and it was my turn to make dinner. I like dicing bacon into little pieces and sautéing them until they’re golden, then they work great in pasta sauces and other settings. I was looking at the bacon blankly and got a sudden mental image of a dish with the bacon amid diced crunchy greens and flashes of red, like tabbouleh.
Ingredients · Sorry, not terribly quantitative.
Thick-cut strongly-smoked bacon. Eight to twelve slices feeds four.
Kale. Thick and crunchy is better. One big bunch is enough, but generally more is better.
Bulgur. A cup or so.
Sun-dried tomatoes. Two or three big dessert-spoonfuls.
Other items, just for fun (see below).
Process · This doesn’t move along that fast so there’s time to make whatever else you have in mind.
Put the bulgur in to soak. About twice as much water as bulgur.
Dice up the bacon, I try for pieces about the size of cornflakes.
Toss the bacon into a frying pan — I swear by our old black well-seasoned cast-iron pan — at medium heat so it’s spitting but not loudly, and ignore it for a while, stirring every so often. It takes me fifteen minutes or more to to get that golden color.
Dice up your kale. In the picture above, I got distracted halfway through and it’s nowhere near finely enough diced. Still tasted fine but looks better if finer.
When the bacon is looking ready, drain off most but not all of the excess fat.
By the time you’ve done all this, the bulgur should have soaked up the water and be pretty soft. Drain off any remaining water and add the bulgur to the pan. Also add the sun-dried tomatoes.
Some fairly vigorous stirring is required to get it all mixed up evenly.
The soaked bulgur is now pleasantly al dente so you only need to cook this stuff for a couple of minutes until it’s nice and hot.
Add your kale and once again it’ll take enthusiasm to get it all nicely mixed up. Even with really tough kale, you only need to cook for a very few minutes.
I like to leave it in the frying pan and put that (on a trivet or whatever of course) on the table, let people serve themselves.
Variations · The first time I did I didn’t do the sun-dried tomatoes and it was still tasty, the kale/bacon/bulgur play very well together. But the tomatoes were nice enough to become canonical. I also tossed in some kalamata olives, cut up a bit, and that was good too.
For future iterations I’m thinking of ideas including lemon juice and diced sweet potato.
The name · Lebanese and Levantines generally should be forgiven if they are recoiling in horror because this is really not anything like Tabbouleh, which by definition is cool and crisp. But I can’t think of anything better.