Looking for a tasty summer salad that is easy to make, full of nutrients and can double as an hors d’oeuvre? Try tabbouleh – a classic middle eastern dish. One-half cup of fresh parsley, the main ingredient in this version of tabbouleh, provides 46 micrograms of folate which is a little over 10% of the recommended dietary allowance for adults (age 19 and over) which is 400 micrograms/day. Other good vegetable sources of folate include spinach, boiled navy beans and avocado. Breakfast cereals fortified with folic acid are another good source. Folate, you say? Let me explain…
Folate helps our cells make DNA and RNA so it is important for the formation of new cells. It also helps in the formation of hemoglobin in red blood cells along with vitamin B12 and may help prevent heart disease. If you don’t get enough folate you can have trouble with cell division and protein synthesis. Folate deficiency can also cause some types of anemia. It is extremely important to have adequate folate if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant to avoid the risk of your baby’s developing spina bifida or other neural tube defects. In fact, the recommended dietary allowance for women who are pregnant is 600 micrograms/day and 500 micrograms/day for women who are breastfeeding.
Traditionally tabbouleh is made with a few simple ingredients– parsley, bulgur wheat (sorry gluten-free fans), tomato, onion, peppers, mint, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. You could make a gluten-free version by substituting plain brown rice or quinoa for the bulgur wheat, but the flavor will be a little different. I’ve also seen it made without the peppers, or with the addition of finely chopped carrots or cucumber — be creative and make it your own. All you do is wash the ingredients, chop and mix, and you’re done. When I’ve bought tabbouleh in the store it often contains far more bulgur wheat than parsley and is more of a starchy side dish than a salad. Just not the same — try this homemade version instead.
1/2 cup dry bulgur wheat
3 bunches of parsley
1 Tbsp. onion
1/4 red pepper
1/4 yellow pepper
2-3 sprigs fresh mint
1 large tomato
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
Place bulgur wheat in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Cover and allow to sit for approximately 2 hours (or overnight in the refrigerator). Wash and remove stems from parsley and mint. Finely chop parsley, onion, peppers, mint and tomato and mix gently with bulgur wheat. Add olive oil, juice from the lemon and salt and pepper to taste.
Allow to rest in refrigerator for 1-2 hours before serving.
To serve: use as a salad (it makes a great side dish for a summer barbecue), or put it out with whole grain pita bread triangles or Belgian endive as an hors d’oeuvre. You can also use it in a pita pocket as a sandwich filling for lunch.