Tabbouleh has as many spellings as pilau. Alice Marks, one of Charleston’s great cooks, used to live in Beirut. Her version of tabbouleh, the classic Middle Eastern cracked wheat salad made with tomatoes, mint, parsley, and cucumbers picked fresh from her garden, has a gradually cooling effect during the dog days of summer when the temperature approaches 100 degrees and the humidity 100 percent in the city. In this version the wheat is replaced by rice for a Lowcountry flavor.
Peel the cucumber, halve it both along its width and its length, scoop out the seeds with a spoon, and cut each quarter into 4 or 5 strips. Place them in a colander and toss them with the tablespoon of salt. Set aside to drain.
Place the rice in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Put the garlic, parsley, and mint in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the garlic mixture to the rice, then add the onion and tomatoes. Toss in the lemon juice, then add olive oil to get the desired consistency. (Don’t feel that you must add all of the oil. Many oils are heavy and overpowering. And rices are different, as are rice cooking methods. You don’t want the “tabbouleh” to be oily, but you do want to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes and lemon juice.) Refrigerate until about an hour before serving.
If you find that the salad has too much liquid when you remove it from the refrigerator, simply put it in a colander and drain some of it off. Dice the reserved cucumbers, which should be well drained by the time you’re ready to serve, and toss into the salad. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
© 1992 All rights reserved. Published by UNC Press.