Cauliflower tabouli: A modern rendition of the classic
One day when searching online for a particular recipe, I happened on a post for cauliflower tabouli. Since tabouli is not what I was set on at the time, I kept clicking. Weeks later I held a half head of cauliflower in my hand and recalled the tabouli idea. I wish I could credit the proper site for this idea. Of course, there could be 97 who would claim credit. Thanks to you all! This salad is a total winner.
My introduction to tabouli came decades ago when a friend from work stopped to visit my garden. She spied the flat-leafed parsley and lit up. “You can make tabouli for our next potluck!” Sally had lived and worked for a time in an Israeli kibbutz and provided me a lovely connection to Middle Eastern food. The day following the garden visit she handed me a recipe card with instructions for tabouli, neatly printed.
One of the key ingredients in tabouli is flat-leafed parsley. Sally’s reaction came from the fact that markets only carried curly parsley. It is not a good substitute. The curly stuff is bitter! You have to realize that in those days parsley was considered a throw-away garnish. Curly was pretty. Flat was boring and weed-like so the only flat-leafed parsley in the country was growing in home gardens of recent Middle Eastern immigrants and a few Hippy cooks like me.
Today most markets carry a bit of the flat-leafed parsley. Some of the not-so-savvy grocers sell it as cilantro. Watch it! Pinch a leaf and smell to ensure buying the right herb. Buying at a farmers’ market is safer. If the vendor grew the plant, then they certainly know what the plant is…even if cilantro and flat-leafed parsley do look similar.
Another key ingredient in tabouli is bulgur, a cracked wheat that adds body and a welcome chewiness to the salad. In the rendition below, finely chopped cauliflower replaces the bulgur, a super switch if you are cutting down or cutting out wheat. And guess what? Cauliflower improves the body and the chewiness of the salad.
Traditional tabouli keeps for a few days when properly refrigerated. However, it always tastes best on the day it is prepared. Cauliflower taboubli holds up beautifully into day 2 and day 3. That means a lot in this house. Now we have a super salad for brown-bagging or for a quick lunch of leftovers.
The ingredients and amounts listed below are suggestions. Every tabouli artist loads their own pallet. Be free to do the same. Create your signature tabouli that pleases your palate and the palates of those you love to feed.
Cauliflower Tabouli Ingredients
- 1 small head cauliflower, the fresher the better
- 1 1/2 cups minced flat-leafed parsley
- 1/2 cup minced mint
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 green onions, finely sliced
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Cauliflower Tabouli Steps
- Thoroughly wash the cauliflower then break it into flowerettes.
- Finely chop the flowerettes either with a heavy butcher’s knife or in a food processor. If using the food processor, give it a couple of pulses at a time until the cauliflower pieces are about the size of small green peas, no smaller. If you get carried away with the processing, you will lose the crunch in your tabouli.
- Empty the chopped cauliflower into a large salad bowl. Sprinkle on the garlic, parsley, mint, and onions. Toss and blend the ingredients thoroughly.
- Stir the lemon juice and olive oil together, then drizzle it over the salad. Add salt and pepper to suit your taste and toss to completely coat all the ingredients in the lemon/oil mixture.
- Allow the tabouli to rest at room temperature for 15-30 minutes for the flavors to blend. Mix again and check the salt and pepper. Add more if needed.
Serve the tabouli as a side, as a salad, as a topping for baked potato, as an addition to a felafel sandwich, as a fresh topping for a grilled cheese sandwich, and creatively on and on! Do enjoy, however you use it.