Authentic Lebanese Tabooli


The call of chirping birdies and the imagined smell of fresh cut grass is keeping me up at night.  I don’t remember a winter this hard.  Do I say that every year?  Having lived with the caprice of a schizophrenic weather god the least little bit of spring fighting through has spurred my gastronomic desires

I can’t think of anything fresher or more restorative than tabooli to auspicate the occasion.  Or a better reason to use the word “auspicate!”  Ha!

Perhaps you know it as tabouli, tabbouleh, or tabulee but the popular Middle Eastern dish is actually an old Lebanese creation. Originally, the Lebanese made this with just parsley, oil, the seasonings and lemon juice and only later a little soaked burgul (aka cracked wheat) was added.   A truly authentic Tabooli recipe is all about the parsley.  Let me say that again. .  A truly authentic Tabooli recipe is all about the parsley. I say that twice because I have seen this dish made with predominantly cracked wheat (bulgur) and that just ain’t right!!!! That’s not tabooli. That’s a burgul dish.   As a matter of fact I often serve this dish without the bulgur because I try and stay gluten free as much as possible.  This refreshing fiber and vitamin-rich recipe is delicious either way.

Authentic Lebanese Tabooli

8 cups parsley (approx. 4 large of bunches)

1/2 cup bulgur (cracked wheat) #1 fine grind

2 large finely chopped tomatoes

1 small white onion finely chopped

6 green onions finely chopped

1 cup lemon juice

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup finely chopped fresh mint or 2 tablespoons dried

2 teaspoons salt

dash pepper

1.Before you start make sure the parsley is cleaned and dried.  I either clean it the night before by soaking and rinsing a couple of times and setting out to dry for several hours, or I use a salad spinner to get the parsley nice and dry to cut.

2.If using bulgur soak in a ½ cup water and set aside

3. Finely chop the tomatoes and place in a large mixing bowl along with all the juices.

4. Finely chop onions and add to the tomatoes.

5. Add the salt and pepper, mix and set aside.

6.  Chop the parsley as fine as possible.  Start by taking each piece of parsley stalk and line it up in your hand by the flower end until you get a good hand full that you can control without losing grip of the pieces. Place the bunch on a cutting board and cut off the stems where the flowers begin.  Grab the bunch in your fingers and squeeze for control much like making a chiffonade, and begin to chop the parsley as fine as you can readjusting your hold as you chop.  Continue this process until all of the parsley is chopped.   Add to tomatoes and onions

7. Finely chop the mint and add to the parsley bowl.

8. Add bulgur if using.

9. Add the lemon, oil, salt and pepper and mix well.

Serves 6 to 8

Tabooli can be served as a first course or a main dish. Try pairing with Milani Chicken. Yum!


Milani Chicken

cropdoneMuch like many newlyweds of my generation, when I first got married, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen trying to find my bearings and pretend I knew what the hell I was doing.   My mom and cousin were on speed dial for traditional Lebanese food assistance and just basic technique direction. There were so many opinions in my family about how and what to cook I found myself struggling to develop an approach for my tastes and style.  One time in particular I remember having a craving for the chicken kabobs my cousins served in their restaurant.  I didn’t have their recipe but I really wanted something a little more crunchy and garlicky.  Milani Chicken was born.   Even though I didn’t stray very far from home and tradition, my first original concoction has stood the test of time.  It’s a favorite of my family and friends and in permanent rotation in our household.  It also fueled my confidence as a young cook and opened the door for more experimenting in the kitchen.

My son Oliver loves the brown, crunchy bits of garlic the best  He comes behind me and scapes every last morsel from the pan.  If you don’t let the garlic get really toasted and brown then this recipe will just be another chicken dish.  Let it brown and then let it brown a little more.  Just like the pictures.  xoxox

4 boneless breast of chicken
One head of garlic mashed with a mortar and pastle
Juice of one lemon
1/2 C olive oil
2 heaping tablespoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Mash the garlic with a mortar and pestle


2. Cut the chicken in cubes. Add all ingredients and mix.



3. Spill into a hot non-stick pan and sautéed to coat each piece.


4.Reduce the heat and allow the chicken and garlic pieces to brown.

5.Stirring occasionally.

Not ready yet. Almost!!
Not ready yet. Almost!!

This dish is done when the garlic is brown and crunchy and each piece of chicken is a caramel color at least on one side.

Now it's done!!
Now it’s done!!

Great on the paleo diet wrapped in lettuce.

For the non-paleo diet See below

Wrap in some pita and topped with cucumber dressing, lettuce, onion and tomatoes and life is good!!  Need a video?  click here

Cucumber Dressing

2 C shredded cucumbers
2 C Sour Cream
2 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 salt

Shred cucumbers and lightly squeeze out excess water. Add all ingredients mix and enjoy!  Sahtain!!



Authentic Traditional Baba Ghanoush

Just in time to include a little Mediterranean flare to your Thanksgiving table.  Baba Ghanoush is not only refreshing and healthy it’s a delicious way to add some new  flavors to the “same ole” Thanksgiving palette.  Perfect as an appetizer or snuggled up nicely beside some juicy turkey and gravy.  These fall flavors seem to match up perfectly.

When I was a little girl this dish was not one of my favorites.   I couldn’t understand how anyone would want to eat an “egg” plant.   When I realized it had nothing to do with eggs I opened my mind a little and now it’s one of my favorite vegetables. Eggplant is much more user friendly than most people give it credit for.  I especially love its smoky flavor in this dish.

The ingredients are almost identical to hummus except, of course, the most important element… eggplant.  Baba Ganoush is actually less calorie dense than hummus. A cup of eggplant only has 35 calories while a cup of chickpeas has 285.   Whaaat????   So you can indulge a little more.   The traditional topping of pomegranates add a lovely unexpected freshness to the warm smoky eggplant and not to mention the added nutritional impact.  So worth the effort of having to peel the pomegranates.

2 Cups eggplant

1 Cup tahini

½ Cup lemon juice

3 Cloves garlic grated with a micro plan or smashed with a mortar and pestle

1 ½ Teaspoon salt

Generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Pomegranate seeds optional


Start with three nice sized eggplants.  Let me just say color makes a difference here.

The dark purple aubergines are the ones you want to use for this recipe.  I enjoy all species but the lighter ones don’t hold up to this type of roasting.



Score each vegetable with a fork three or four times and place them on a hot grill.  Let them roast for at least 45 minutes.



Once good and charred on both sides remove the eggplant and scoop out the creamy pale innards

Add the eggplant, garlic and tahini together and blend with a hand blender or electric blender.  Add lemon, salt and blend.

Plate it by smoothing it out on a nice Milani Platter. 🙂

Give it a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a generous topping of Pomegranate seeds and that’s it!  So easy.  Right?  Let me know what you think!





Roasted Tomato Sauce

German Johnson

A while back my daughter and I were in the city looking at schools.  After spending the day torturing our feet from school to school we had to rush to catch dinner before a show that evening.  Totally against my character, I had not made dinner reservations so we ducked into a little Italian restaurant near the theater.  I wish I remembered the name, but I vividly remember our little table for two against the wall, the warm hue the red checkered tablecloths cast in the room, and the glorious smell of roasting tomatoes, garlic, and fresh-baked bread.

We ordered our standard favorite, fried calamari, and when I first tasted their Marinara sauce, I almost did a ‘Tom Cruise on the chair.’  I kept interjecting my daughters comments about the schools we’d visited with things like ‘is this not the best sauce you’ve ever tasted?  I mean really can you taste the depth, the rounded flavors?  It’s perfect don’t you think?”

I look up to see two enormous beautiful black eyes staring at me across the table.  My daughter knew the signs well.   Before she could say “mom please don’t” I had motioned for the waiter.  Excuse me I said.  Can you tell me a little about this sauce?  Were the tomatoes roasted? Is that basil I taste? Is there wine in here?  It was obvious he was confounded by my questions by his opened mouthed expression.  And judging by the fact he was slightly out of breath in an earnest attempt to accommodate his packed section, he did not have time to answer crazy questions. Coming to his rescue my daughter tells him,  “It’s ok we are late for a show anyway” and before I could get any answers, we had left.

It wasn’t the first time I’d been scurried out of an eating establishment for the same reason.  At least I’ve never gone back to the kitchen like my father used to do.  I know. We are a disparaging lot.

So I was left on my own to figure out a reasonable facsimile, and since then this sauce has been a staple in my house.  As a matter of fact every year at the end of August I make several cases of the summer’s best and last tomato harvest to freeze for the winter.   I wanted to post this recipe now for that reason. This sauce is only as good as the tomatoes you use.


4lb tomatoes peeled and coarsely chopped (I use German Johnson)

1/4 cup finely chopped Garlic

1/4 cup Olive oil

1 jalapeño

salt to taste

Basil or oregano which ever you prefer 

Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for just a few minutes so that they will release their skins.

peel tomatoes

Peel the tomatoes and coarsely chop and place all ingredients in a medium to large size casserole depending on how much you are making.


bake at 400 degrees for about 1hr. or until the tomatoes start to brown and thicken.

Remove from oven, blend with a hand blender or blender.



Here is when we usually take some out for immediate use and bag up the rest and freeze it.   We use this sauce for everything and anything that calls for red sauce and sometimes even if it’s not called for.


If you need a visual demonstration click here for a quick video.