Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tabouli Salad & Visitors From Mexico

 The Food:  Lebanese Tabouli Salad
A dish my German Oma made for her Lebanese-American husband.  My mother sent me the recipe:

Bulgur Wheat:
There are three kinds of bulgur wheat: fine, medium and coarse.  For a nuttier texture, use medium Bulgur for Tabouli. 
The wheat must be prepped first by soaking it:  For every 1 cup of wheat, bring to boil 1-1/2 cups water. Put the wheat in a pot and pour the boiling water over the bulgur. The grain should be covered by about 2 inches of water.  Allow the wheat to soak 45 minutes.  Drain the water from the bulgur.  Then wring the bulgur (don’t just drain it) a handful at a time, until the excess water is expressed. Now, the wheat is ready to use.  Set prepped bulgur wheat pot aside …

Ingredients:
-       1 ½ cups bulgur wheat (soaked and pressed)
-       5 firm tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
-       2 bundles green onions, finely chopped
-       1 cup extra virgin olive oil
-       1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
-       pinch salt
-       pepper (preferably, fresh ground black peppercorns) to taste
-       1 tsp. Cumin
-       3 bunches finely chopped flat leaf parsley
-       1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh or dried mint

Finely chop the green onions and place them in a large mixing bowl.
Sprinkle the onions with the salt, pepper and cumin, set aside.
Blanch the tomatoes quickly in a pot of rapidly boiling water to make them easy to peel and seed. Express the seeds and chop the tomatoes into coarse chunks. Add tomatoes to onion mixture.
Cut the thick stems from the parsley bunches. Wash the parsley tops thoroughly and pat the leaves dry.  Coarsely chop the mint and parsley leaves into the cup of a large blender. 
Add 1/3 of the liquid ingredients, lemon juice and olive oil, to the blender cup and pulse the blender to finely chop the parsley mixture.  Add the rest of the liquids slowly as the blender is pulsed. The parsley mixture should end up very finely chopped and be thoroughly blended with all of the olive oil and lemon juice.  Empty the parsley mixture from the blender into the green onion and tomato mixture in the large bowl. 
Stir the ingredients together. 
Spoon the bulgur wheat into the parsley and green onion mixture until all ingredients are thoroughly blended.
Adjust the seasoning by adding more oil or lemon juice as needed. Refrigerate until completely chilled.
Tabouli is served chilled as a salad on a bed of washed, "pat-dried" leaves of romaine lettuce.   

My tabouli experiment during finals week. 
My Kitchen Experience:
Full disclosure:  I am a cheater, cheater pumpkin eater! (I do have a delicious pumpkin spice cookie recipe, but that’s for another time.)  I am the genius who started blogging during finals week.  But I wanted to share holiday recipes, at least that was the logic.  Anyway, I have three finals this week, so I used a shortcut.  While I seasoned everything as my Oma directed, I did not soak and press the bulgur. I KNOW I AM A BAD PERSON! I used the Near East taboule kit (that's how the brand spells it) — just for the bulgur wheat.  It is super easy, and I do recommend it for others in a jam.  It took 30 minutes to soak and one hour to chill with the additional ingredients. 

So I skimped on the main dish, but I have a great side of lore!

The Fable: Visitors from Mexico, 1930s 
This familytale calls for one part Sulphur, Louisiana, a dash of Mexico and a hint of Lebanon. 

My grandfather, John, was Lebanese-American, raised in the very small, rural town of Sulphur … and he was the oldest of five children. The John family (yes John was his first and last name, but that is another story for another time) was an attractive group, especially the three daughters with striking dark hair— which my mother recalls glimmering auburn in the sun. 

So beautiful, that the news travelled across the world.  Well, at least to Mexico. There, a very wealthy Lebanese-born man heard of the beautiful John women and traveled to find a wife for his son. But, as not to intimidate the young ladies, he left his son at home and brought his daughter. And to Sulphur they went.

Enter my grandfather.

He went to Sulphur High School and was the Norman Rockwell image of a football hero — just with a darker complexion.  He was walking home when he stumbled upon a very strange scene: his father Joseph was chasing a man out of the house and into the street.

Well, it was that man from Mexico.  He arrived, daughter in tow, and decided that my great-aunt, Esma (the eldest daughter), was just the right age.  Apparently, he sent Esma to the movies with his girl, to befriend the family.  At the theater, Esma recalled, the girl showing her a photo of the brother in Mexico.  Esma did not think much of it, but understood the significance years later.

Well, the Man from Mexico was much less subtle.  He asked Joseph if he could bring Esma back to Mexico as a bride for his son. Great-grandpa Joseph disagreed, physically chasing the man off his property. 

I would like to say that the John women are still just as beautiful.  Frankly, I can see what all the fuss was about.


My cousins, sister and me last summer.  While only one of us still has the surname John,  that pretty, dark hair is still a dominant gene.  Well, for most of us.  

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Welcome to the Old Country!

As a journalism major and history minor, I have a passion for both writing and historic conservation.  I also love to bake and am lucky to have grown up very close with both of my grandmothers. Thus, the creation The Old Country Blog! 

As a child, I heard family lore from my German grandmother (who married a tall, dark and handsome Lebanese man) about the old countries.  And, food was often a major plot point. Fables and cuisine are the essence of culture, and it is my goal to record my family's heritage.

Here, I want to preserve authentic recipes from my motherland and yours, by providing dishes and tales from across the globe! I am compiling recipes and stories from my family and friends to bring the Internet the most authentic ethnic dishes!

My Oma (German for grandmother) and her Lebanese husband on their wedding day, October 15, 1949.  My sister and her husband share this anniversary. 

If your grandma has a good story, or recipe, email me at carolinecgerdes@carolinegerdes.com.
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