You say tabbouleh, I say tabouli

PHOTO PROVIDED BY ROBERT LUHMANNIn traditional Lebanese tabouli, parsley dominates. In this version, cucumber adds a refreshing crunch and a bit of a break from all the parsley.

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"Summertime and the living is busy ... " is how the lyric should read for those of us lucky enough to be in the Berkshires in the summer. There's so much to do, it's hard to squeeze it all in. I couldn't possibly list all the music, theater, dance, art galleries and museums to be enjoyed and competing for my attention this time of year. There are excellent restaurants, dazzling farmers markets and wonderful food markets in the region, all featuring locally grown and produced foods. Not to be missed is the incredible number of beautiful hiking trails as well as lakes, rivers and ponds for swimming and boating, mostly for free.

I have a certain prejudice, as a music and picnic lover, for Tanglewood. The chairs, tables and picnic supplies are always packed and at the ready. Once we have all our picnicking supplies together, it really isn't difficult to put together a reasonable picnic. We do our best to take advantage of all the Berkshires has to offer each summer, but the season is short for some of the events. The Boston Symphony Orchestra's Tanglewood season is particularly short and remains my go-to in the summer.

As a music lover and someone who has made his living producing food, I've always been interested in the parallels in producing music and food for a living. I've had discussions with some of my professional musician friends on this subject, and we tend to agree there are a number of similarities.

First of all, musicians and chefs tend to travel in the same social circles, as we're generally working when the rest of the world is at leisure. I was a chef on Cape Cod for over 15 years. I really couldn't tell you a whole lot about what others would describe as the Cape Cod experience in the summer, as I spent most of my summers inside of a kitchen. I did, however, hear some great jazz and had some memorable after-hour conversations with musicians in our restaurant's lounge after service was over. Not many of us can immediately put the brakes on after putting our hearts and souls into our craft in an evening.

Producing music and food for a living are performing arts. As we refine our chops, so to speak, we start moving the needle from craft to art. Performing arts are all ephemeral, never to be repeated exactly the same. It's what differentiates a painter or sculptor from a musician or a chef. As Joni Mitchell once noted when discussing the difference between being a painter and the performing arts, "Nobody ever said to Van Gogh, 'Paint a Starry Night' again, man!"

Whether it's aurally or gastronomically, a musician or chef is producing a consumable product providing pleasure. We're in the pleasure business. It's the almost instant feedback from the audience and the energy it produces that can provide satisfaction for both the audience and the chef or musician.

I'm not sure why I felt the need to go down the road of discussing the similarities of chef and musician, but while considering picnicking at Tanglewood, it worked itself into my consciousness. It's a subject I've considered for a long time, and I guess it was time to organize those thoughts. As a former chef, I hope you enjoyed it!

I've described picnicking at Tanglewood as my go-to in the summer, so I'd like to provide you a recipe for tabouli, my go-to salad for Tanglewood.

You say tabbouleh, I say tabouli; let's make it the way you like! I want to emphasize that, yes, I measured all the ingredients when putting together this version, so I can assure you it works for me, however, I Googled "tabouli salad recipes" and stopped counting after 100. I'm more jazz musician while making food, so I rarely actually measure anything. I look to recipes for ideas I may not have considered. I've been doing this for a long time, though, and for someone less sure of the interactions of ingredients, try making it as written and take it from there. There are, after all, over 25,000 recordings of the song, "Summertime."


This version is more reflective of a traditional Lebanese tabouli in which parsley dominates; cucumber, however, is not traditional. I really like parsley dominating the salad, but cucumber adds a refreshing crunch and a bit of a break from all that parsley. The best bulgur to use is the very fine No. 1-size bulgur, which requires no cooking, as after about a half-hour it softens by soaking up the oil and liquids in the salad. This salad holds well for hours and can still be good the next day.


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3 cups (about 2 bunches) flat leaf parsley, washed thoroughly, stemmed and finely chopped

4 scallions, cut on the bias

1 cup grape tomatoes (1 pint), cut in eighths or 1 cup small diced seeded tomatoes

1 European cucumber with skin, small diced to approximately the same size as the tomatoes

1/2 cup mint, stemmed and finely chopped

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp allspice

1/2 cup No. 1 very fine bulgur

Salt and pepper to taste


Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, some salt and pepper and the allspice. Add bulgur to the oil and lemon mixture and pour over the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Blend ingredients thoroughly and refrigerate. After about a half-hour to allow the bulgur to soften, adjust salt and pepper and enjoy!


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