After seemingly unending weeks of rain, cold and wind in April, when the sun finally came out this week and the temps hit the 70s, I figured it was time to break out a summer dish — regardless of whether it was absolutely seasonally appropriate or not.
So I leafed through my stack of favorite recipes looking for Brigitte’s tabbouleh salad. It’s a recipe I’ve kept since it was first published in the New York Times magazine in 2006.
It isn’t really traditional tabbouleh, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
The Brigitte referred to here is sexy French movie actress Brigitte Bardot who starred in 47 films, including French film director Louis Malle’s 1965 film “Viva Maria!” Bardot was nominated for Best Foreign Actress by the British Academy Film Awards for her role as one of the two Marias.
The story on the dish — and Bardot — was recounted in the Times’ Sunday magazine by Frederic Van Coppernolle, the grandson of Bardot’s cook and home helper. He went on to become an executive chef.
Bardot, he explained, wasn’t easily pleased with the dishes she was served, including this tabbouleh.
She was said to like lots of lemon zest. And if you don’t have a zester and have to extract the small lemons shreds using a boxcutter — as he did — it can be a knuckle-skinning experience.
So much for the story on Bardot and zest. Now on to the tabbouleh. This dish is made with couscous. The tabbouleh look of the dish comes from two cups of chopped fresh mint, not the parsley traditionally used in tabbouleh.
Rinsing, spin drying and then setting out to finish air drying the mint is about the toughest part of this dish. Just allow some extra time for that step.
The rest involves dicing roma tomatoes, using the English cucumbers I prefer rather than garden variety cukes, peeling and fine dicing shallots, and of course extracting the zest from the lemon (I used zest from a whole lemon) and squeezing out the fresh lemon juice.
I made the dish exactly according to the recipe this time. If you’re up to the work, and buying an extra lemon, I’d opt for more zest.
I know some people are allergic to garlic, so I added more shallots to give it a taste test.
I often mix the dash of Tabasco sauce with the fresh lemon juice.
Don’t forget the can of chickpeas while you’re at the store, as well as the tomato juice, and then you’re good to go.
The recipe says to let it chill for several hours or overnight to let the flavors blend. Sometimes I’ve jumped right in and served the couscous immediately after fixing it.
I think it works well at room temperature, but let taste and preference be your guide.
Have fun mixing up this salad that really does nearly shout out from its bowl “Spring is here!”
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brigitte’s tabbouleh salad
½ cup tomato juice
1½ cups instant couscous
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup chickpeas
1½ cups diced tomatoes
1 cup peeled, seeded and diced cucumber
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
3 tablespoons shallots finely chopped
Zest of half a lemon
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups tightly packed mint leaves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons salt
Black pepper to taste
Dash of Tabasco or cayenne pepper
Bring 1 cup of water and the tomato juice to a simmer in a small saucepan. Put the couscous in a large heatproof bowl and pour the hot liquid over it. Add the oil, stir and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside.
In another bowl, stir the chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumber, garlic, shallots, lemon zest and juice, mint, salt and pepper. Use a fork to mix the vegetables with the couscous and finish with Tabasco or cayenne to taste. Cover and refrigerate preferably overnight to allow the flavors to blend. Serves 4 to 6.
Source: New York Times Magazine