09/15/2010 04:31 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Tabbouleh Gets a California Makeover


The last of the season's tomato crop is coming in now and so it's the perfect time for dishes that feature tomatoes as the star. While the classic Middle Eastern dish of tabbouleh may not be the first one to come to mind, in my version of the salad, tomatoes get top billing.

My 94-year-old grandmother is Armenian, and over the years, she's taught me to make her Tabbouleh. However, I put what I call a California twist on it. Mine is lighter on the parsley - and heavier on other fresh herbs. I take advantage of my herb garden by tossing anything that's readily available - including mint, basil, oregano, dill and lemon verbena. My tabbouleh is also more colorful - as I like to include red, yellow and orange veggies - and more tangy.

I particularly love this room temperature dish because it's so versatile. Serve atop a bed of pretty greens (sometimes I'll crumble some feta on top) or melt some cheese a pita pocket, stuff it, and have it for lunch. Try sliding a few avocados in your pita.

One final note, I use thicker grain, as I like my bulghar crunchy. If you have a local Armenian, Greek or Persian market, purchase the bulghar #2 or #3 as opposed to the more fine #1, typically found in grocery stores.


1 cup raw bulghar (not fine, but thicker grain)

3 large tomatoes - in a variety of colors

2 peppers - in a variety of colors

1/2 cup flat finely chopped fresh parsley (the flat leaf version)

3/4 cup finely chopped mixed fresh spices - you pick: basil, oregano, mint, lemon verbena, dill

1 peeled, chopped cucumber (if it's organic, leave a bit of the skin on)

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

Salt & Pepper

Dash of cayenne pepper

Dash of Tabasco sauce


1/3 cup virgin olive oil

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 Tablespoon Red wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon finely minced fresh garlic


Make the dressing first. I find it tastier if the mix has been allowed to sit for awhile - say for an hour - before you toss it on the bulghar and vegetables.

Put the dry bulghar in a large bowl that's wider than tall. Boil water and pour 1/3 cup of hot water on top of the bulghar. Cover with a large pan lid and let steam. Let sit for 15 minutes.

Chop cucumber in half lengthwise and then chop into bitesize pieces. Chop peppers into small bite size pieces. Clean and rinse herbs, discarding stems (a little stem is okay, but just try to get rid of the thicker pieces) and then mince.

Place the cucumbers on top of the bulghar. Lightly salt and pepper. Put the peppers on next. Next, top off with the fresh spices. A side note: with regards to the spices, suit your own taste buds. I love basil so I do a heavier concentration of it - but if oregano floats your boat, go with more of that. Often times I combine four or five fresh herbs. You just want the total amount of fresh spices to be about a cup and a quarter. The final layer is the chopped tomatoes. Go with the tastiest, most colorful tomatoes you can find - red and yellow mixed heirlooms, purple Cherokees and Green Zebras are all great choices.

Whip your dressing and pour over the bulghar and veggies. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours. Toss just before serving. Add smoked paprika, Tabasco and dash of cayenne pepper. Salt and pepper to taste. Sometimes it needs a dash more lemon or vinegar.

Serves 6 with enough for a sandwich or two the next day