Spring has extra-special charms for the garlic lovers among us.
After a winter of shriveling, sprouting cloves, the warming weather brings new garlic shoots, ready for plucking. This neonatal green garlic is a boon for those enthralled by the stinking rose, yet it’s mellower and fresher than the white, papery heads you get the rest of the year.
Green garlic looks like a scallion with floppy, leafy tops and slender white stalks. All of the plant is edible, including any bulbs swelling from the root ends. The bulb is what eventually forms cloves and grows into a garlic head. But while still young, those tender bulbs are juicy and sweet, with just a hint of the pungency they develop after maturation. And the greens are wonderfully herbal, with an allium tang.
You can use green garlic anywhere you’d use green onions – in salads, compound butters or pesto-like sauces. Or treat it like mature garlic and purée it into hummus, pesto or aioli. Or sauté it as the base of a soup, stew or sauce. Green garlic may not be as intense as mature garlic, but it has the freshness of youth on its side.
In this tabbouleh recipe, I treat green garlic stems like herbs, and mince them into a mix of parsley and mint that make up the backbone of the salad. Feel free to play with the ratio of parsley to mint to green garlic. As long as you keep the overall volume of herbs the same, you'll end up with a salad that’s more green than beige, which is exactly the point. This variation is on the lighter side, compared with some other tabbouleh recipes, but it’s very complexly flavored.
Serve tabbouleh as a side dish to simply grilled or roasted meats or fish. It’s a natural with falafel, either homemade or ordered in. But it also works well with just a chunk of good feta and some warm pita on the side for one of the easiest yet satisfying meals around.
You can make the tabbouleh up to three hours in advance. It does gets more garlicky the longer it sits. But for garlic lovers, that is not necessarily a bad thing.
Green Garlic Tabbouleh
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more for cooking the bulgur
1 cup medium bulgur
2 tablespoons lemon juice, more as needed
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, more for serving
2 1/2 cups coarsely chopped Italian parsley leaves
1 1/4 cups finely chopped green garlic, tender stems and tops only (save the bulbs for another use)
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1 cup diced tomato
1 cup diced cucumber
1 bunch thinly sliced green onions (1/2 cup)
In a medium pot, bring 2 cups well-salted water to a boil. Add bulgur; cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until tender, 8 to 12 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse well under cool water. Drain completely and transfer to a large bowl.
In a smaller bowl, whisk together lemon juice, salt, cumin, pepper and allspice; whisk in oil. Pour dressing over bulgur and toss well. Toss in parsley, green garlic, mint, tomato, cucumber and green onions. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Drizzle with more oil just before serving.
Yield: 8 servings