Tabbouleh has come a long way in its journey from the mountains of ancient Lebanon to the contemporary American picnic table. The refreshing bulgur wheat salad is served cold and fits into any summer meal.

Recipes for tabbouleh vary widely, but all call for the nutty, light brown bulgur to be mixed with chopped greens - usually parsley and mint.

Tabbouleh is a perfect fit for the predominantly plant-based diet recommended by the American Institute of Cancer Research to reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.

Bulgur - wheat kernels that have been steamed, dried and crushed - is a nutritious staple in the Middle East. It has a tender, chewy texture and comes in coarse, medium and fine grinds. The fine bulgur works best with the other ingredients in tabbouleh, and better absorbs the lemony dressing.

Whole grains like bulgur are rich in many substances that are cancer-protective: phytochemicals, vitamin E, niacin, zinc, iron and magnesium. They also contain more fiber than refined grains.

Parsley and mint are sources of cancer-fighting agents, too. Parsley has the antioxidants found in all dark green, leafy vegetables. And mint contains limonene and luteolin, both of which are believed to fight breast cancer.

For tabbouleh, the flat (Italian) parsley is preferable to its curly cousin because it has a more intense flavor and better texture.

If you have really good summer tomatoes, they can be used diced, in place of the cherry tomatoes. Use whichever has the better flavor.

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Chopping the greens by hand gives the salad a nice texture, but if you have a food processor with a good, sharp blade, it will save some time. After you make the tabbouleh, let it sit for a minimum of two hours so the varied textures and flavors can develop and blend. It's an easy dish to prepare, and tastes even better the next day.

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Tabbouleh

Yield: Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup fine bulgur
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup finely-chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2/3 cup (about 1 bunch) finely-chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1/3 cup finely-chopped red onion
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, or to taste, finely-minced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Ingredients:

  1. In a large bowl, pour boiling water over the bulgur. Let stand 30 minutes, until the bulgur has absorbed all the liquid and is softened.
  2. Place tomatoes in a colander over sink or large bowl and use fingers to break them down slightly to drain off some liquid and eliminate some seeds.
  3. Add parsley, mint, onion and garlic to the bulgur and mix with a fork. Mix drained tomatoes into mixture. Drizzle in lemon juice and olive oil and mix well with a fork. Mix in salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill 2 hours, or up to 24 hours, before serving.

Per serving:
125 calories,
4 g. total fat (less than 1 g. saturated fat),
21 g. carbohydrate,
4 g. protein,
6 g. dietary fiber,
23 mg. sodium.

Diabetic Exchanges:
1-1/2 Bread/Starch, 1 Fat


AICR