Thursday, July 24, 2008

A French Take on Tabbouleh

I live in Texas, so Tex-Mex cuisine, as might be expected, is very popular here. There are countless numbers of restaurants and taco stands all over Austin; so many that when I first moved here, I grew tired of eating out. I was not fond of salsa, tortilla chips nor any spicy flavor. Proof that one can get used to anything, I now enjoy Tex Mex a lot and I even add salsa and pico de gallo to my tacos and fajitas! Tacos and salsa, it seems, have become staples in American kitchens. 

In France, immigrants from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia imported many dishes that are now part of everyday French cuisine like merguez sausages, couscous, kebabs and tabbouleh. I'm not sure how authentic the dishes remain when we French make them but they are wonderful, and that's all that matters to me.

Taboule (that's how we spell it in French) is fantastic during the Summer. I usually make a big bowl and we eat it for several days. It's also perfect for picnics. My Mom probably makes a taboule every other week during Summer months because of how refreshing it is. It's a lot of cutting and chopping but it's really worth it. I do not use a lot of fat so it's also very healthy. 

The original recipe for tabbouleh consists of bulgur, lots of mint and parsley, onions and tomatoes. The taboule served in France uses couscous, diced cucumbers, bell peppers (I choose not to put any however. Personal preference) and tomatoes. It's so popular that it is sold prepackaged in grocery stores, much like you would buy potato salad in the United States for example.

My two tips to making a great taboule are to let the flavors mingle together for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator and to make sure you peel and remove the seeds from the tomatoes. The rest is as easy as pie.

Laetitia's Taboule (serves 8)

1 seedless cucumber
1/2 cup of golden raisins
4 or 5 tomatoes
1 7-ounce box of original couscous
1 shallot
1/3 cup of chopped, pitted black olives (not canned)
1 cup of chopped fresh mint
1 cup of chopped fresh parsley
3 tbsps of fresh lemon juice
4 tbsps of olive oil
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp pepper

Cut the cucumber in two, put in a colander and sprinkle with a little bit of salt. Set aside for 30 minutes, to draw the water out. Boil 3 cups of water and cover the raisins in a bowl with 1 cup of boiling water. Set aside for 10 minutes. This will rehydrate them. You will use the 2 remaining cups of boiling water to peel the tomatoes. Cut a little cross at the top of each tomato (it will make it easier to peel afterwards) and immerse in the boiling water for 10 seconds maximum (longer and they will become mushy). Set aside and let cool. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, peel with a knife, cut in half and gently squeeze over the sink or a bowl to remove the seeds. Dice and put in a bowl. 

Cook the couscous following the package's instructions. When ready, put in a big bowl and fluff with a fork.

Add the thinly sliced shallot, the diced cucumber (wipe it off with a paper towel, pat dry), the thinly chopped parsley and mint to the tomatoes. Pit and chop the black olives, drain the raisins and add. Mix everything with the couscous and stir. Add the lemon juice, the olive oil and the salt and pepper. Make sure everything is well stirred. Cover and store in the fridge for at least 3 hours before serving.

Adjust the seasoning right before serving. I sometimes add a little more lemon juice or olive oil.


Com.4.mysT said...

"Kebabs and tabbouleh" are not from north Africa, they are from Middle east

Bon appetit more on tunisian cuisine here

Laetitia said...

The Middle East includes The Maghreb.

Wikipedia source: "The Maghreb includes Western Sahara (claimed by Morocco), Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. North Africa generally is often included in common definitions of the Middle East, as both regions make up the Arab world."