Growing up, my family always told us stories of where we came from. Roots, as with many families, were, and still are, very important to us. These are the stories and histories that have always grounded and united us as a family. And with more cousins and family members than I can count, it has been essential in keeping many of us so close, even several generations after coming to the United States.
My Mother's side consisted of Polish, Irish and Syrian immigrants. Some of our history, however, has been somewhat sad. My great-grandmother's mother died when she was just 16. Her mother was actually Palestinian, but having died so young, she was unable to pass much of what she knew to all of her daughters. Her Syrian husband eventually remarried, but to a woman who was Irish. This, combined with the intense societal pressures to assimilate during that era, resulted in the loss of our language and many traditions. Being told about my Arab heritage, but having limited knowledge of it has left a bit of a hole in my heart.
The reason I tell you all of this is because April is Arab American Heritage Month. And while I may not be as in touch with my Arab roots as I want to be, the fact remains that without Arab immigrants, I would not exist! So to celebrate, I would like to shine a spotlight on a few amazing people and organizations that I admire for the wonderful work they are doing:
Tatreez and Tea- Wafa Ghnaim has written books about Tatreez (Palestinian embroidery), embroidery techniques and motifs, and the Palestinian diaspora. She offers classes to anyone who wishes to learn the art of Tatreez and has been involved with multiple academic projects relating to this topic. You can learn about the programs and education she provides on her website and to learn about her latest project or to donate, click here.
Emma's Torch is located in Brooklyn New York and provides high quality culinary training to refugees.
Immigration Advocates Network provides social services to refugees including Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (AMEMSA) populations across several counties in New York.
Arab-American Family Support Center- This organization's mission is to empower immigrants and refugees with the tools they need to successfully acclimate to the world around them and become active participants in their communities.
If you would like to celebrate Arab-American Heritage Month, I hope that, in addition to making some tasty recipes, you will also consider making a small donation to one of these amazing causes.
What is tabbouleh?
Tabbouleh is one of those things that we have been eating forever, but never had a recipe for. But because I've eaten it so many times, I've been able to recreate it exactly how I like it. Tabbouleh is a flavorful salad consisting of some basic ingredients such as herbs, cracked wheat, tomatoes, onion and cucumber, and it could not be easier to make! The trick is to make sure everything is diced as finely as possible. This will let you get a good blend of ingredients and better texture.
Traditionally, red onions are used, but I really like green onions for their mild flavor, so that's what I've used here. My family also likes a lot of lemon, so that's reflected below as well. You can either make it exactly as written or start with the juice of one lemon and taste before adding more.
I find this dish goes with a lot, but some serving suggestions (and how I usually enjoy it) are:
As part of a grain bowl (as seen in the photo below)
With rice and a protein like chicken or lamb
On top of a gyro or wrap
On top of (or along side) flat bread
This salad will hold up well because the Parsley does not wilt quickly in the lemon juice like lettuce would. It will reliably keep in the fridge for about 4 days, and I think it tastes even better the next day, so it's perfect if you need to prep some sides in advance.
1 Lg bunch fresh parsley, stems removed, finely chopped
2 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1 Baby (or Persian) cucumber,* small dice
2 Small (or 1 medium) vine ripened tomatoes, seeds removed, finely chopped
3 Green onions, whites only, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp prepared bulgur, cooled
About 1½ juicy lemons, or to taste
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except the olive oil.
Gently mix to ensure all ingredients are coated with the lemon juice and well combined.
Add the olive oil and toss.
Serve either cold or room temperature. Store covered in the fridge for 4-5 days.
Makes about 4 servings
*If you can't find baby cucumbers, you can use another variety available in your store, but the flavor of your salad may be altered slightly. Baby cucumbers have an excellent flavor with very few seeds. Other varieties will not be as flavorful, but will be ok in a pinch. Just remember to remove the seeds before dicing to keep them from making the tabbouleh bitter.