I’ve been to Israel only once. I’d like to go back again. There was so much we didn’t see, and so much I’d want to do again, like swim in the Dead Sea, explore the labyrinthian passageways of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or bask in the rainbow colors of Marc Chagall’s windows at the Hadassah-University Medical Center.
But until I make it back, I have the food to keep me happy. On our first full day in Israel, we drove north from Hafia to Rosh ha-Nikra, Israel’s northern-most point. In fact, Israel’s border with Lebanon can be seen from the parking lot of the Rosh ha-Nikra grottoes. After hiking around the cool damp caves, our group clambered back on the bus and headed east, hugging the Lebanese border. We soon stopped for lunch at Arazim Restaurant in Shlomi.
As I sipped a Coke (my trick for keeping stomach ailments at bay while traveling), plate after plate of Lebanese mezze were placed before our group. Thick hummus served with plump pita bread, spicy lamb nestled against tangy rice…but I only had eyes for the tabbouleh.
More parsley than grain, more vegetable than starch, the tabbouleh at Arazim was so refreshing and filling I could barely keep from leaping across the table to get more.
Back home I eventually mastered a traditional tabbouleh, made with bulgur wheat. In the weeks since eliminating gluten from my diet, I searched like a mad woman for a grain to replace the bulgur, eventually settling on buckwheat. Although settling isn’t really a fair statement: buckwheat is creamy like risotto (without the fuss) yet has a bite like barley. It’s not as nutty as bulgur, but for me, it’s just as good.
Maybe even better.
- 1 cup buckwheat
- 3-4 Persian cucumbers, diced (no need to peel)
- 1 pound small heirloom tomatoes, chopped
- 1 bunch green onions, whites and tender greens, chopped
- 1 bunch parsley, chopped
- 1 bunch mint, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Zest and juice of one lemon
- ½ to ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- Boil 2 cups water in a medium saucepan. Rinse and drain the buckwheat. When the water boils, add the buckwheat, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed into the buckwheat, stirring occasionally.
- Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl.
- Once the buckwheat has cooked, fluff with a fork and add to the vegetables.
- Chill for 2-3 hours before serving.