Saturday, March 21, 2009

Cooking While Working

I finally got a job a couple of weeks ago so I don't have the time I usually do to cook.  I always have wondered how working women here balance cooking with working.  It's definitely not an easy task!  In Bahrain its much easier because many working women have maids or depend on their mothers for cooking.  Here, I wake up at around 7:30 am every day and come back home at around 7:00-7:30 pm.  I have a pretty long commute (slightly less than an hour) so I come back exhausted!  This has made me obsessed with finding fast, easy yet still delicious recipes.  I've been calling my mom a lot and visiting a lot to find these recipes.  I want to cook more substantial meals on the weekends that I can freeze for a few days of the week at least, but so far I've either had the flu, or gone to work during the weekend.  Hopefully next weekend I'll make something though.  I can't imagine what Ramadhan is going to be like!


Yesterday I made tabbouleh.  I didn't plan to make it or anything.  I realized that we had a lot of left over parsley from last week and I had no idea what to do with it.  I didn't feel like being creative so the first thing that came in mind was tabbouleh.  It is a really simple dish, so the end result is all about the quality of the ingredients used and their proportions to one another. Use the best quality and freshest ingredients that you can find. I thought my tabbouleh was okay. I wasn't wowed by it but I didn't hate it either. Here are my observations:

Things I liked:

  • We didn't have any green onions at home (I don't like using the regular onions for tabbouleh) so I didn't add onions at all. I really liked the tabbouleh without the onions. Next time I'll either omit the onions or add green onions but much less than usual.
  • I hate tabbouleh where the burghul has expanded too much. I like my burghul to be crunchy so I didn't soak it for too long. I soaked the burghul for maybe 10 minutes (used the whole wheat fine variety) in a mixture of lemon juice and water. This gave the burghul a slightly lemony taste. I haven't decided whether I like whole wheat burgul yet. It has a nuttier flavor than regular burghul. It gave the tabbouleh more flavor but changed its taste slighly. By the way - unlike many Americans here, I make my tabbouleh the authentic middle eastern way, which means not adding a lot of burghul.
  • Since we didn't have a lot of parsley left, I added more mint than usual so then mint to parsley ratio was around 1:1. I loved the extra mint. It gave the tabbouleh a lot of flavor and I will definately add a lot of mint next time.
  • My tabbouleh didn't take as long as it usually did because I used a food processor. Most purist are completely against the use of a food processor for chopping the parsley and mint in tabbouleh arguing that this will bruise the parsley. I guess that would be true if you processed it for too long. However, I used the pulse button and would literally pulse for a split second, stop and pulse again. The results were excellent so if you have a pulse button on your food processor, I highly recommend using it to make your tabbouleh. It'll save you a lot of time and energy! 
Things I didn't do too well:
  • I used goya extra virgin olive oil. Tabbouleh is all about the quality of the olive oil and goya olive oil isn't that great. Next time I make tabbouleh, I will try to use the best olive oil I can find. I think a fruity or peppery olive oil suits tabbouleh more than a grassy one
  • I used curly leaf parsley because thats what we had left over. It wasn't that bad but I prefer the flat leaf type for tabbouleh because it has more flavor
  • The tomatoes I used were a little soft.
  • The parsley wasn't that fresh but I expected that because it was a week old.
Tabbouleh is a highly personal recipe. I suggest experimenting with the ingredients and the proportions so that you can find the perfect tabbouleh recipe for you. Here are a few guidelines to get you started:
  • Tabbouleh isn't tabbouleh without these key ingredients: Parsley (lots of it), Burgul and Tomatoes. Don't attempt to make tabbouleh without these ingredients.
  • Most people add mint to their tabbouleh. Since I absolutely love mint, I would never make my tabbouleh without it.
  • Many but not all add onions to their tabbouleh. Experiment with different types of onions but stay away from the regular yellow onions. Try green onions, scallions or red onions. Make sure to mince the onion very finely
  • Some people add coriander and/or cucumbers to their tabbouleh. The cucumbers should be chopped the same size as the tomatoes and the coriander should be chopped the same size as the parsley. I personally don't like coriander in tabbouleh.
  • Ratio of Parsley to Burghul: Everyone likes a different ratio. But for an authentic middle eastern tabbouleh, make sure that the burghul you add is equal to or less than the parsley. In other words, the predominent ingredient should never be the burghul.
  • Make sure you dry the ingredients well after washing them. I usually shake the parsley and mint after washing and then place them between two paper towels. For the tomatoes, either use plum tomatoes or de-seed the tomatoes before adding them to the tabbouleh. Make sure you squeeze out all excess water from the burghul.