I’ve been craving my mother’s tabouli. I keep wondering, why now, when tomatoes are not in season and the last of our parsley and mint are frozen little ice-sticks, poking out from the snow. It occurs to me that this is the time of year when I would normally go back home to Los Angeles to visit my parents. Perhaps my body still remembers. Without fail, my mother would make a large bowl of tabouli, my favorite thing to eat ever. This was no small task. She would wash and then chop all the bunches of parsley by hand, finely dice the tomatoes and onion, pick the mint from the old mint patch on the side of the house, and pull a few lemons off the huge lemon tree she and my dad planted thirty years before, thorny and unruly from years of not pruning, but bursting with juicy bright fruit. Somehow her tabouli would restore me. Was it was the tabouli itself, or the love she put into it, I don’t know, but it seemed to heal whatever ailed me.
When you think about your growing-up food, what is it that heals and comforts you?
Whatever this is, take the time to learn how to prepare it, and if possible, learn directly from the person who made this for you. I can’t express enough, how this simple act will bless you over and over, after they go.
I chop the parsley. Finer Sylvia, chop it finer! I can hear her say with her thick Finnish Accent.
The onions and tomatoes. Cut them smaller. Do not rrrrrush, you have to be more be patient. Make them smallerrrr.
Add the salt, just little at a time, not too much…you must taste it as you go!
Squeeze the lemons. That is rrrrright. Just enough. Now… it is good.
Brian, with an unusually good knack for mimicking, has perfected my mother’s thick accent, with her forever rolling rrrrrr’s and scratchy nordic voice. Randomly, he will spout out something she would say, in the exact same way, and each time it gives me chills and makes me laugh hysterically, summoning her right into the present.
He is unaware to this day, that this is one of the best gifts he has ever given me.
So, after all that, I should probably tell you, this is not my mother’s tabouli, but it does seem to satisfy the craving. The flavors are similar, but lentils take the place of bulgar wheat and give this tabouli recipe a hearty winter twist. Gluten free, vegan and packed full of anti-oxidants, protein and fiber, Lentil Tabouli is a great way to start off the New Year. Healthy, detoxing and energizing, the flavors will take you someplace warm. And it’s so simple to make.
Remember to cook lentils to al-dente… it only takes about 20 -30 minutes, depending on the size of the lentil. You don’t want mushy lentils! Soaking the lentils beforehand will not only shorten the cooking time, but will prevent any bloating or tummy issues. So I soak them in cold water for about 8 hours, or overnight, then boil them and check them after 20 minutes.
And a little tip: leave your lemons at room temperature and roll them firmly on the counter with the palm of your hand to produce more juice.
The cinnamon and allspice in this lentil tabouli recipe may seem strange, or even too much, but trust me and give it a try. I think you will be surprised at how lovely the flavors meld and balance.
I want to wish you a very Happy New Year!
- 1½ Cups Puy Lentils ( Palouse Black Caviar Lentils)
- 4 Cups water
- 4 medium tomatoes- (2 cups finely diced)
- 1 large bunch Italian Parsley- finely chopped ( about 1½ Cups)
- ⅓ C finely diced Red onion or shallot
- ¼ C finely chopped fresh mint
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp allspice
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ C lemon juice and zest of one lemon
- Cracked Pepper to taste
- To prevent tummy bloating soak lentils in cold water 8 hours, or overnight.
- In a medium pot bring lentils and water to a boil. Turn down heat, cover and let simmer on med-low to low heat for 20-25 minutes, or until just tender. Strain and rinse with cold water until lentils are nice and cold.
- While lentils are simmering. Finely dice tomatoes, onion, parsley and mint, and place in a medium sized bowl.
- Toss in rinsed cold lentils and mix in olive oil, lemon juice,½ of the zest, kosther salt, pepper, cinnamon and allspice. (Don't be tempted to leave the spices out, trust me, they work well!!)
- Miix. Adjust salt and lemon if necessary, and let the flavors meld for at least 10 minutes. Chill until ready to serve. Garnish with remaining lemon zest.