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.
- 1 cup bulgur wheat
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 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)
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.
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.
Stir together the red onion, ground spices, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let stand while the bulgur is soaking, at least 30 minutes.
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.