All-American Cracked-Wheat Summer Salad

A rose by any other name … got me thinking.

“All-American Cracked Wheat Summer Salad.” That’s my new name for tabouli. Or tabbouleh. Or tabuleh. Or any of the other variations of this wheaty salad.

(What? Spellcheck says “wheaty” isn’t a word? I’ll deal with that later …)

Seems lots of folks don’t like the idea of tabouli more than they don’t like what it actually is: wholesome wheat berries with summer vegetables and a light lemony sauce. Tabbouleh … just sounds foreign. Maybe even French. And definitely hippy. Tabouli rhymes with patchouli … can’t be a coincidence, can it?

So how do you sell something like tabouli to mainstream America? Easy … what’s it made out of?

First and foremost, all-American wheat berries, one of this country’s great staple crops and a $7B a year industry.

Not sure why, but folks look at bulgar wheat or tabouli and think, what is this mush? We’ve all heard of flour and oats and real American grains, but this has to be one of them foreign weeds, like quinoa or couscous. But bulgar wheat, or it’s less processed form, cracked wheat, are just that, wheat. Wheat berries that have “cracked” or ground into various granulations for faster cooking. (In the case of bulgar, the berries are steamed first and then dried.)

So what else is in the “foreign” salad? There’s cucumbers, an American favorite during the summer. Tomatoes, found in every Big Mac and on so many front porches in container gardens or those upside-downy hanging contraptions. Lemon juice, another summer fave. Salt and pepper. And a mix of herbs familiar to most any American home garden, like mint or parsley.

Crazy stuff, eh?

And it’s easy to make, and you know how Americans hate anything that’s easy to make. The wheat doesn’t even have to be cooked. You can just steep it in hot water and you’re done. (If you want to get crazy, you can saute it in broth with onions and garlic, but that’s totally optional.)

And it’s versatile. Another things Americans hate. There are about 50 different ingredients that can go into tabouli, and you only need 5 of them or so, so you can mix it up and never have the same salad twice.

It travels well, and we know how Americans hate summer picnics and barbecues. There’s not mayo to go bad in the heat like potato salad. Basically, keep it out of direct sunlight and it will last all day.

And finally, it’s healthy. (Okay, sarcasm off, we’re not so crazy about healthy things, as a nation. But we’re getting better.) There’s nothing in it but whole grains and fresh vegetables. Because you’re using ground wheat berries, you still have a lot of the protein from the wheat. There’s a skosh of healthy fat from the olive oil. Add some chopped chicken breast for a bit more protein, and you have a near-perfect post-work-out recover meal.

So, support American wheat farmers and serve up some All-American Cracked Wheat Summer Salad.

Basic Recipe:
One cup bulgar wheat or cracked wheat
Two cups boiling water
2 Tbs olive oil
Juice from two lemons
Half cup mixed herbs, chopped (mint, parsley, cilantro, etc)
Half cup diced veggies (cucumber, tomato, red pepper, onion, green onion, garlic,
Salt and pepper to taste.
Optional:
half cup chick peas
half cup shredded Romaine lettuce

Pour the boiling water over the bulgar and let it steep for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, dice your veggies and finely chop your herbs. When the bulgar is ready, add veggies and then olive oil / lemon juice.

Notes:

You can really play with all of the proportions. In some parts of the world, this is really a parsley salad with a little bit of cracked wheat, not the other way around. You can up the herbs, then, to a full cup or more with no problems. The more wheat, the more lemon juice it can handle, and you’ll see as much as half a cup per cup of bulgar in some recipes. Onions … red, yellow, sweet, or green all work. Most cultures call for lots and lots of parsley, but we’ve made it with 100% cilantro and loved it. Technically, that’s probably not “tabouleh,” but then again, we’re not so worried about labels here.

Farm Facts:

Agriculture employs 21 million people—more than seven times as many workers as the U.S. automotive industry.

Agriculture is one of the few sectors of the economy that consistently runs a trade surplus.

For every dollar Americans spend on food, farmers only get 20 cents.

95% of U.S. farms are run by families, farmer partnerships or co-ops.

Today’s farmer provides food for about 140 people—up from just 19 people in 1940.

“Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.” – President Dwight D. Eisenhower

“The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.” – President John F. Kennedy

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3 Responses to All-American Cracked-Wheat Summer Salad

  1. Ask any Lebanese how tabbouleh is made (it is after all our national salad) and he will tell you : parsley, mint, bulgur (a tiny bit) tomatoes and onions. Not that I begrudge you the other additions: actually I applaud you for this post, you are going to help me sell tabbouleh! Your version is not our traditional version but it is DELICIOUS nevertheless , and that after all, is all that counts!

  2. Ha! You are absolutely right! : ) I love your logic and it makes me want to give wheat berries another try.

  3. Hope I didn't sound jingoist or xenophobic. Not my intention at all. Was hoping to humorously point out that lots of things that a lot of folks consider "foreign" are just the same old stuff, rearranged in an interesting way. And I've been on a non-recipe kick lately, trying to figure out the range of proportions that will still work. If you make this with 2:1 bulgar to parsley or 3:1 parsley to bulgar, it's totally different but still sort of the same.

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