Most gardeners are aware that mint is invasive and will completely take over any area in which it is planted. It creeps horizontally because it is a rhizome. So if you want to grow mint and you don’t have room for it to sprawl, I recommend planting it in a container. I have mine in a nice big planter to bring some green onto the patio. I love how it tends to overflow beyond the edges of the pot. And how I can feel free to harvest as much as I want, because it grows so vigorously. But whether you grow Peppermint or Spearmint, what do you do with all that mint?
Make Tabbouleh, of course! I don’t have homegrown cukes or tomatoes yet, but I’ve got plenty of mint, and parsley – which are the key ingredients to one of my all-time favorite summertime dishes, tabbouleh. Or tabouli? I have no cultural connection to this type of food – but I’ve always just loved it. I’m not even sure when I first tried tabouli. Maybe at the same time that I discovered falafel at Al Salaam Deli when I was at college in Savannah, Georgia? Anyway, ever since I started making it for myself years ago, I’ve put my own spin on the classic recipe. Cucumber, mint, tomato, parsley, lemon, and bulgur wheat are all givens. Imagine a lemon in the bottom left corner of the photo – because somehow I missed that styling opportunity.
Here’s my twist: I’m a big fan of fresh garlic, and fresh ginger in my tabouli. And celery! I usually press garlic and grate ginger in all of my cooking – but for this recipe it really makes a difference to chop by hand. A coarse mincing creates just the right size bits to integrate with the bulgur wheat and you will really taste it. Occasionally you’ll get a spicy kick from the ginger.
For the onion element, I prefer diced white onion over scallions. That ties it all together for me, for flavor and texture. Chopped celery provides an extra cool crunch, with an invigorating bite that fits in happily between the cucumber and parsley that are typical in this dish. By all means, use the celery tops too if you’ve got them – not just the stalks. Romaine lettuce can work well too in this salad. Sometimes I just heap some tabouli on top of lettuce.
Of course I also chop up a significant amount of of mint and parsley. I use curly and flat if I have both on hand, but I would definitely choose curly if I had to pick only one – again it’s all about the texture. And proportions. I make this more of a green salad than a bulgur salad. Then add the juice of a lemon, some E.V. olive oil, diced cucumbers, tomatoes, and fluffy bulgur wheat. The tiny particles of onion, garlic, ginger, and bulgur collect in the ruffles of the curly parsley, perfectly dripping with lemon juice and olive oil. I like to throw in some cumin and coriander along with salt, and lots of pepper. Lastly, you absolutely have to let it chill for at least an hour – or even better, overnight. The flavors meld together and create something far superior to the sum of the parts. But here they are:
- Diced Cucumber
- Diced Tomato
- Diced Onion
- Chopped Celery
- Chopped Romaine (optional)
- Chopped Mint
- Chopped Parsley
- Minced Garlic
- Minced Ginger
- Bulgur Wheat
- Olive Oil
- Lemon Juice
It may be just as good with a food processor, but I doubt it. For me, it is worth all of the time and effort that it takes to prepare this dish one ingredient at a time. There’s something about handling each of these fresh ingredients that improves my mood and inspires me to eat more simple, fresh, unadulterated food. It’s almost as if the flavors chemically alter my composition, causing me to crave more healthy food. Plus it’s something you can make in large quantities because it keeps well in the fridge or cooler. Let me know in the comments if you try my version or a variation of your own!