escarole

Our old friend David went to Seattle last year and brought us a little tin filled with the aromatic Turkish powder, baharat, from that city’s famous Public Market. I have been shy about using it. Frankly, I thought the spice mix was for meat dishes only. So I’d sort of side-lined it to the back of the spice cabinet, that is until I read Yotam Ottolenghi uses baharat in a tabbouleh recipe from his new book, Jerusalem.

Yotam’s baharat-seasoned tabbouleh

Yotam’s baharat-seasoned tabbouleh

So I did a little research. Turns out, baharat is a mélange of allspice, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamonn, cloves, coriander, cumin, chili pepper and nutmeg. It has a wonderful scent.

Yotam’s baharat-seasoned tabbouleh

½ cup bulgur
3 large ripe tomatoes, chopped fine
2 shallots, chopped fine, rinsed in running cold water
Juice of 3 lemons or more
3 large bunches of Italian parsley, washed, drained and chopped fine
5 leaves of escarole, washed, drained and chopped fine
2 bunches mint, rinsed, dried and chopped fine
2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp baharat mix
1/3 to ½ cup first cold press, top quality, arbequina olive oil
Sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Rinse bulgur in a strainer. Add to a bowl, cover with water and let soak for ½ hour. Drain and squeeze it to remove as much water as possible. Transfer to a large bowl, add tomatoes, shallot, parsley, mint, escarole, spices, salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Add lemon juice and about two thirds of the olive oil. Toss again. Let it rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Just before serving add more olive oil and lemon juice and toss again.

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Tabouli is a Middle East dish that is very popular in Brazil. It arrived there with Lebanese immigrants and became so integrated into Brazilian culinary traditions that for me it has always been comfort food.

tabouli with endive and escarole

tabouli with endive and escarole

The basic ingredients for traditional tabouli are cracked wheat, lime juice, good olive oil, tomatoes, cucumber, salt and pepper. In Brazil we like to do things differently, so we go a little crazy with fresh herbs and leafy vegetables. Endive and escarole have a distinct bitter taste, which adds a stimulating depth to this otherwise traditional dish. Steven didn’t even complain! That really must say something. Though now that I’ve gotten him to eat the stuff, how do you pair red wine with bitter greens such as dandelion, treviso, radicchio, sow thistle and so on and on?

I think that the secret to tabouli, and really any good food, is to make it with the freshest ingredients that you can find. I served this dish as a side to mushroom-pink bean loaf (it’s a funny name, though better than “vegetarian meat loaf,” don’t you think? It truly looked a bit pink, but the taste was out of this world!)

tabouli with endive and escarole

2 cups coarse cracked wheat (bulgur), pre-soaked in water for 2 hours, drained
½ bunch Italian parley, chopped
½ bunch mint, chopped
1 red endive chopped
1 white endive, chopped
4 fresh Texas spring onions (those spring onions with a little bulb attached to it), chopped
10 leaves escarole, chopped
10 pearl tomatoes, halved
½ English cucumber, cut into thin half moons and soaked in salted cold water for 10 min, then rinsed
Juice of about 5 limes
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup extra virgin Arbequina olive oil

Place the first 9 ingredients in a large bowl and gently mix with a spatula or by hand. Add salt, freshly ground pepper. Squeeze in lime juice and add olive oil. Toss it again. Taste and adjust flavors. Let it sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving. Yumm!

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