A few years ago, when I was in southeastern Turkey working on my book Mediterranean Grains and Greens, I noticed that the women didn't soak their bulgur in water for some summer preparations. When I asked a Turkish friend about this, she let out a laugh. “In Turkey, no man would marry a woman who just used water! For cold bulgur dishes we always soak in tomato juice, onion juice, or fresh pressed and strained sour grape juice to flavor the bulgur first.”
When I told this story to my old friend Anne-Marie Weiss Armush, author of two wonderful books on Middle Eastern food, she told me about her own experiments soaking bulgur for tabouli with lemon juice and her spectacular results. Anne-Marie quickly shakes fine bulgur in a sieve to remove any dust, rinses it clean, then soaks it in lemon juice before mixing in the other ingredients. “Make it in the early afternoon,” she advises, “then eat it at night, or if you want to serve it for lunch, make it early in the morning.”
½cup fine grain #1 bulgur
¼cupfresh lemon juice
2cups finely diced tomatoes
½cup thinly sliced scallion
2pinches of ground cinnamon
Tender romaine leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
⅓cupextra virgin olive oil
2cups finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2tablespoons slivered fresh mint leaves
Place the bulgur in a fine sieve, rinse under cold running water, squeeze dry, and soak in the lemon juice for 45 minutes. Use a fork to fluff the bulgur.
In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, scallions, cinnamon, and a few pinches of salt and pepper. Drizzle on the olive oil and toss. Fold in the bulgur, parsley, and mint and mix well. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally.
Taste and correct the flavors with lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Serve with crisp inner leaves of romaine lettuce for scooping up the salad.