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 and, of course, their sign proudly displaying their Gnome. 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 of my high school friend and college neighbor, the Zaineas, had owned the beloved Detroit restaurant and adjacent bowling alley/dance club for a couple of generations (and still do, I believe), and she 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.
Coming of age during the 1970s and early 1980s, 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, and was thrilled that my friend was able to give us a tour of her family’s business.
The restaurant and entertainment complex still exists in Detroit’s Midtown, now called The Majestic. And they have kept some of my favorites on their menu.
I’m not sure my recipe is the same as theirs, but it’s still a pretty good one when I need my tabbouleh fix. I whip up a batch on the weekend and it lasts in the fridge for several days. And you can’t beat the health benefits coming from this little dish. Parsley is loaded with vitamin C, B12, K and A, and bulgur (or quinoa) is loaded with fiber, protein and iron–all of which boosts your immune system, keeps your kidneys flushing out toxins and excess fluid, and builds bone and muscle. With all of the natural plant flavonoids in tabbouleh, your risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease and dementia are also lowered as well. WIN-WIN. I serve this using Aldi’s Naan flat bread heated and cut into triangles for a true Mediterranean feel.
1 cup bulgur wheat (or quinoa)
3-4 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped½ small red onion, 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.
- 1 cup bulgur wheat or quinoa
- 3-4 to matoes seeded and chopped
- 2 cucumbers peeled, seeded and chopped½ small red onion, 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.