Today a man was offering homemade products from his village: Carob molasses, orange and rose water, tomato paste, olives, olive oil etc. When I asked him “How much” he replied “I will give it to you for free, my mother made these”. So I offered him what I thought was a great price for the lot, except I turned down his olive oil since we get our own. He started rattling off the sad story of his sister who needed an operation and how her disease got started and how it was getting worse and worse and how much each shot to save her was going to cost him (medicine straight from France); I said I was very sorry about his sister, but had no more money to offer him. His sister’s condition got more urgent by the minute and I was told that he did not want any money for anything, it was all free, except I had to pay for the olive oil (triple what I was offering). He added that he had a good job, naming the firm he was working for, but thank God they had a small plot of land and could produce these and help their sister, etc etc.
Plain and rustic, this dish is from rural areas in Lebanon; it is thought to have been the precursor to tabbouleh, since it is a bulgur pilaf scooped up in a cabbage leaf. It contains chopped nuts, onions, bulgur and cabbage. It lends itself to some sprucing up with spices or a dash of pomegranate molasses.
This version is adapted from a recipe transcribed by Chef Ramzi in his Culinary Heritage of Lebanon. It is prepared in the Hermel region.
INGREDIENTS: 6 to 8 servings
- 1 small cabbage (the equivalent of 3 cups shredded)
- 2 cups of chopped walnuts (can substitute almonds or pecans or pine nuts)
- 2 cups of chopped onions
- 2 cups of bulgur (can use coarse as well, #2 is best)
- 1 tbsp of chili paste
- 1/2 cup of olive oil (or more as needed)
- 1 tsp of cumin
- 1 tbsp of pomegranate molasses (optional)
- Cook the cabbage in several cups of boiling water or steam till tender; drain and shred finely.
- Brown the onions in olive oil till almost caramelized. Wash the bulgur under running tap water and cover with hot water for 30 minutes. Drain. Add to the skillet with the onions and cabbage. Add the nuts and chili paste and other spices if desired (salt, pepper, cumin, pomegranate molasses). Stir-fry in olive oil for a few minutes and serve at room temperature or warm as desired. You can serve with additional cabbage leaves to scoop the bulgur pilaf.