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Yum! Authentic Syrian Tabula

Island Epicure

I got my wish, folks, a lesson in how to make a delicious Syrian salad, by taking notes as Jamila made Tabula in my kitchen. Her daughter Iylaf, a third grader, and speaks excellent English already.  My daughter Suzanna has an app on her cellphone that translates between Syrian and English. These  helped us communicate with Jamilla who is in English language classes but doesn’t yet have a very large vocabulary. Iylaf (say EE-laff) made sure I spelled her name right this time, to my joy.

First, Jamila (say Jah-MEE-lah), asked for a large bowl, a sharp knife and a surface safe to cut on. Right away she spotted my collection of cutting boards and chose one large enough for her purpose. Suzanna had conferred with her ahead of time and brought the necessary ingredients for the salad she intended to make: iceberg lettuce, parsley,  cilantro, mint, tomatoes, lemons, cumin seeds, a ground dried red pepper called Aleppo that she had got from Rich Osborne, purveyor of exotic foods and spices as well as the very best extra virgin olive oil.  

Jamila swiftly chopped the head of lettuce into pieces no more than ¼-inch squares. They went into the big bowl, and were followed quickly by the remaining ingredients, also chopped.

Here is the recipe. Allow an hour for preparation. No cooking required except for the quinoa. Suzanna cooked that while Jamila chopped the vegetables. I think you could chop them one kind at a time, in a food processor. Jamila would have used bulgar, but Suzanna explained that I (and most of  my descendants get headaches if we eat wheat, and bulgar is a wheat product. Jamilla understood because a member of her family is wheat-sensitive, too. She said she had eaten Tabula made with quinoa at Costco and it was good, so quinoa could be substituted. Aleppo red pepper is fairly gentle. If you must substitute cayenne, go easy on it. Taste test after mixing in a small amount if using cayenne..

Jamila’s Tabula
8 to 10 servings

1 head iceberg lettuce, chopped finely
½ bunch parsley, de-stemmed and minced
1 bunch cilantro, de-stemmed and chopped
Fresh mint leaves, about  ½ cup,  chopped
3 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
Juice of two lemons
4 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons Aleppo red pepper, or to taste
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
About 1 ½ cups cooked quinoa
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings. Yoghurt goes well with this and ups the amount of protein in a light supper. We also had a plate of sliced cheddar. For dessert, Jamila had brought a plate of sweet semolina rolls stuffed with soft white cheese.  She is used to cooking in quantity for her family of seven. There were only five of us, so Suzanna took home Tabula for her husband and son James. My son Steve and I ate some of the leftover Tabula for lunch the next day. We still had enough left for another supper for both of us. It keeps for a couple of days when in glass, covered and refrigerated.

 Note: Quinoa is the only grain that contains complete protein, 5 grams in an average serving when it functions as the starch in a meal.