Sack Lunch: Spicy Coriander Tabbouleh

One of the most exciting things about summer is how cheap herbs are at the Greenmarket. I spend the winter making mournful calculations when I read recipes: do I really want to spend $10 on fresh herbs for a single dish? Then comes summer, when the pressure I feel to use suddenly-affordable herbs all the time comes up against my not-so-improvisational cooking style. The weeks I bring home five bunches they tend to wither in the vegetable drawer, but the weeks I refrain from buying any I find myself desperately in need of rosemary or lemon verbena.

Last week I made an unconventional spicy coriander tabbouleh that may be the answer to my problem with herbs. From now on I’ll buy whatever herbs look tempting, and if I haven’t used them by the middle of the week I’ll chop them up, toss them with some bulgur wheat, and see what happens. Stir a drained can of chickpeas into this, maybe some feta if you have it, and it would make a mighty fine lunch.

About the author: Robin Bellinger recently escaped a career in book publishing, which was cutting into her cooking time. Now she's a freelance editor and can bake bread on Tuesday afternoon if she feels like it. She lives in Midtown Manhattan with her husband and blogs about cooking and crafting at home*economics.

Sack Lunch: Spicy Coriander Tabbouleh

About This Recipe



  • 1 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon each whole cumin and fennel seeds
  • 3/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1 cup finely diced seedless cucumber
  • 1 cup finely diced seeded tomato (I’m skipping this until tomatoes are in season)
  • 3/4 cup each minced fresh coriander and fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped scallion
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained (optional)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta (optional)


  1. 1

    Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil. Put the bulgur in a bowl, pour the boiling water over, and add the lemon juice, olive oil, and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir, cover, and let stand for about an hour.

  2. 2

    While the bulgur is soaking, toast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and fennel seeds in a small skillet over moderate heat until very fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Let the seeds cool completely and then grind them into a fine powder.

  3. 3

    Stir together the red onion, ground spices, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let stand while the bulgur is soaking, at least 30 minutes.

  4. 4

    Drain the bulgur if necessary. If the bulgur has soaked up all the liquid, simply add the onion mixture, cucumber, tomato, herbs, scallion, and a dash of cayenne pepper. Toss well. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding salt and lemon juice if necessary. Stir in chickpeas and feta if desired.


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