Tabbouleh with heirloom tomatoes and shiso

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I haven't been posting a lot of recipes here recently. This is mainly because I haven't actually been doing a lot of full-on cooking, as in hauling out a lot of pots and pans and having the oven full blast and so on. It's summer after all, and I've been enjoying fruits and vegetables as close to their natural, fresh, ripe state as possible. So this week I'll be posting a few such recipes - requiring minimal active cooking, full of fresh summer vegetables, and nice to have on a warm summer day or evening.

The first one is my standard recipe for tabbouleh, with a twist - instead of using mint, I use shiso (perilla). Shiso has a slightly minty but wholly unique flavor which I really like in just about anything. I also make it with a lot less olive oil than most recipes call for, which I think adds to the fresh taste. We love to have a bowl of tabbouleh in the fridge for easy self-service lunch and snacks throughout the day - it tastes so healthy and is quite filling. It's also a great side dish for a barbeque.

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Fresh tomatoes are the key to a great tabbouleh in my opinion. You need ones that are ripe and full of flavor, yet firm. One of my favorite tomatoes at the moment are an heirloom Swiss variety called Berner Rosen - they are a rosy pink when ripe, and full of juice and flavor. (If you're in Switzerland, Berner Rosen are all over the place at the markets right now.) If you can't get hold of a good heirloom variety like this, use cherry tomatoes, which are usually reliably firm yet flavorful.

Tabbouleh with heirloom tomatoes and shiso

Makes about 6-7 cups

  • 220g / about 8 oz (or about 1 1/2 cups) bulgur
  • 250g / about 9 oz finely cubed cucumber (or one large English type cucumber, deseeded)
  • 500g / about 1lb 2 oz chopped up tomato (or 6-8 medium to large ripe tomatoes, deseeded)
  • 250g / about 9 oz finely chopped red onion (or 3 medium onions)
  • 2 cups of flat leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 large handful of shiso leaves, or a very small handful of mint leaves, finely shredded (go easy if you are using mint)
  • Juice of 3 large lemons
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Soak the bulgur in enough water to come about 1 cm or 1/2 inch above the surface. Cover and let soak for at least 1 hour.

While the bulgur is soaking, chop up the vegetables. It's better to do this by hand, but if you use a food processor be very careful that it doesn't all turn into a pulp.

When deseeding the cucumbers and tomatoes, reserve the seed part and pass through a sieve to take out the actual seeds but extract the watery pulp around them. This pulp is full of flavor and it will be added to the tabbouleh later. (Skip this step if you don't want to bother.)

Drain the soaked bulgur very well and put into a bowl. Add all the vegetables and herbs, the sieved seed pulp, lemon juice, oil, and salt and pepper; mix well. Taste to see if it needs more salt (remember the saltiness will mellow a bit). Cover well and refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably overnight.

This will keep for several days in the fridge, mellowing every day. If you want to keep it longer than a few days, omit the onions. You may want to add more parsley leaves and/or shiso leaves when serving.

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