In honor of Obe's 33rd birthday this Monday, I decided to put together a Lebanese-style ensemble of mezze dishes.  Mezze are a little bit like Spanish tapas in style.  They are a collection of small-plate dishes served for either lunch or dinner, and the variety is almost endless!

Middle Eastern cuisine has always been a favorite in this house, especially since Obe is half Lebanese.  He is particularly fond of anything with a lot of garlic and lemon juice, and I love all the wonderful spices.  Most of my inspiration came from my new favorite cookbook, Saha by Greg and Lucy Malouf.  Not only is it filled with beautiful pictures and delicious recipes but they also include detailed stories of their travels through Lebanon.  It is a marvelous cookbook and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wishes to explore authentic Lebanese cuisine.

This recipe is a playful twist on Tabouleh.  It has all the main elements of Tabouleh but with some feta to add richness and romaine lettuce to add bulk and crunch.  It can be served as a mezze dish or in larger servings as a lighter-than-air but incredibly flavorful entree.  Enjoy it right away and you get lots of heat from the pungent raw garlic.  Allow it to sit overnight and the garlic flavor mellows and the parsley and lemon juice have a chance to infuse the bulgar to make for a more complex taste.  Either way, this salad is absolutely delicious! 

Tabouleh Salad
serves 4 as a main course

1/2 cup bulgar
juice of 1 large lemon
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 head Romaine lettuce, chopped
1-2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 large cucumber, seeded and diced
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped (about 1 cup)

First, soak the bulgar.  In a small bowl, add dry bulgar and enough cold water to just barely cover.  Allow to soak until the water is absorbed and the bulgar has expanded to about 1 1/2 cups (at least 30 minutes). 

Meanwhile, assemble the dressing.  In a medium bowl, add lemon juice with a pinch of salt and pepper to start.  Using a microplane, grate the clove of garlic into a paste and whisk into the lemon juice.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly.  Add feta and whisk to break up the larger crumbles and incorporate the cheese into the dressing.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, add the bulgar, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and parsley and toss to combine.  Pour dressing over the mixture and toss well.  Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary.  Serve with warm flatbread or naan, if desired. 

*Storage note:  If you wish to make this salad ahead of time (or are planning on having leftovers) keep the lettuce and tomatoes separate and combine dressing with remaining ingredients.  When ready to serve, add lettuce and tomatoes and toss to combine.