I can still remember the first time I ate one of my favorite Middle Eastern foods, tabbouleh.
I was a senior at Michigan State University when a group of us girls decided to take a road trip to my home town of Detroit. We paid my grandparents a visit, who were living just down the block from the City Airport on Detroit’s East Side.
Next was lunch at The Gnome, a Lebanese restaurant on Woodward Avenue just across from the Vernors Ginger Ale Bottling Plant. The name came from Gnome, which was proudly displaced on the sign on the Vernors building.
Vernors produced a very gingery carbonated ginger ale that we all believed was the cure-all, good-for-what-ails-you “medicine” of choice, served cold and even hot, and “Woody the Gnome,” named for the wooden barrels the beverage was aged in, was their easily recognizable mascot.
The Family Restaurant
The family of my high school friend and college neighbor, the Zaineas, owned the beloved Detroit restaurant and adjacent bowling alley/dance club for a couple of generations (and still do, I believe). My friend was thrilled that we showed an interest in exploring her family’s culture and the “exotic” food from their restaurant.
We were warmly welcomed by her father, and she introduced us to a Mediterranean platter–Hummus, Stuffed Grape Leaves, Baba Ghanoush, and my favorite, Tabbouleh.
After the mass exodus to the suburbs after 1967 riots and the decline of the auto industry leading to many dads being laid off from work, the streets of Detroit were not a welcoming or safe place even for us adventurous girls. We were too afraid and too broke to venture very far outside our neighborhood. So, I had no idea of the history of The Gnome until I was in my early 20s. I was thrilled that my friend was able to give us a tour of her family’s business.
The The Gnome Restaurant and it’s famous dishes are a past memory. The restaurant is now an entertainment complex in Detroit’s Midtown, called The Majestic. They used have some of the old favorites from the restaurant on their menu, but now the food offering are pizza and the like.
My Tabbouleh Recipe
I’m not sure my recipe is the same as theirs, but it’s still a pretty good one. Perfect for when I need my tabbouleh fix. I whip up a batch on the weekend and it lasts in the fridge for several days.
What I love best is that it can all be made in the food processor when I don’t the chopping mood. Chop, chop and it’s ready to eat.
The Many Healthy Benefits
And you can’t beat the health benefits coming from this little dish.
Parsley is loaded with vitamins C, B12, K and A. Bulgur (or quinoa) is loaded with fiber, protein and iron. All of these nutrients boost your immune system. They keeps your kidneys flushing out toxins and excess fluid, and builds bone and muscle. Sounds good to me.
With all of the natural plant flavonoids in tabbouleh, your risks for cancer, cardiovascular disease and dementia are decreased. WIN-WIN.
I serve this using Aldi’s Naan flat bread heated and cut into triangles for a true Mediterranean feel. Aldi is also selling mini pitas. They’re delicious, too.
- 1 cup bulgur wheat (or quinoa)
- 3-4 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
- ½ small red onion, chopped
- 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups chopped fresh parsley
- ⅓ cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ cup lemon juice
- ½ cup olive oil
- In a medium bowl, PLACE bulgur wheat and COVER with 1 cup of boiling water. SOAK for approximately 30 minutes until water has been absorbed.
- In a mixing bowl, COMBINE the bulgur wheat, tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, garlic, parsley, mint, salt, lemon juice, and olive oil.
- COVER and REFRIGERATE for 5 hours or overnight (even better). Be sure to mix salad before serving as dressing collects at the bottom of the bowl.