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 California to see 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 nonetheless with juicy bright fruit. Somehow her tabouli restored me. Was it was the tabouli itself, or the love she put into it? I do not 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 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 giddily, 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 Puy 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 simple to make.
Make sure to use Puy Lentils ( the smaller dark green lentils, found in the bulk section of your grocery store) because they are less starchy and tend to hold their shape better. If you cannot find Puy Lentils, also called, french green lentils, or indigo lentils, make sure to use lentils that still have their skin on. Red lentils will disineagrate without their skins. Remember to cook them al-dente… it only takes about 30 minutes. And a little tip: Leaving your lemons at room temperature and rolling them firmly on the counter with the palm of your hand will 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…. and leave you with a poem that I have cherished over the past year.
How To Be a Poet
BY WENDELL BERRY
(to remind myself)
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.
Lentil Tabouli Salad
- 1 1/2 Cups Puy Lentils ( Palouse Black Caviar Lentils)
- 3 Cups water
- 4 medium tomatoes- (2 cups finely diced)
- 1 large bunch Italian Parsley- finely chopped ( about 1 1/2 Cups)
- 1/3 C finely diced Red onion or shallot
- 1/4 C finely chopped fresh mint
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp allspice
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 C lemon juice and zest for garnish lemon
- Cracked Pepper to taste
Don’t be tempted to leave the spices out, trust me, they work well.
Toss. Adjust salt and lemon if necessary. Chill until ready to serve. Garnish with lemon zest.