Tomatoes brimming with tabbouleh

Tabbouleh, one of the most popular Mideastern appetizers or salads, uses soaked raw wheat and lots of fresh mint. The crisp romaine lettuce leaves are handy for scooping up the cold tabbouleh salad and provide crunch.

This is a nice salad to make when there are lots of large, juicy, bright red tomatoes around to make good containers for this crunchy salad. It is appealing to the eye too, with flecks of bright green mint and parsley leaves among the nutty grain. Tabbouleh With Tomatoes 1 cup bulghur wheat 7 large ripe tomatoes Salt 5 tablespoons lemon juice 1 cup finely chopped onion 1/3 cup finely chopped shallots 1 1/2 cups chopped parsley 1/4 cup choped fresh mint, or 2 tablespoons dried 1/2 cup olive oil

Freshly ground pepper

Whole small romaine lettuce leaves

Cover bulghur wheat with cold water and let soak for 1 hour. Meanwhile, halve 4 tomatoes horizontally, and gently squeeze out seeds and juice. Carefully scoop out pulp. Sprinkle 6 shells with salt and drain upside down on rack. Chop remaining 2 shells along with pulp. Toss chopped pulp with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and salt. Set aside.

When wheat has soaked, drain and squeeze dry in towel. Fluff up -- the kernels should be dry. Add onions, scallions, parsley, and mint. Combine remaining lemon juice and oil, mix with wheat mixture, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Let mixture stand in cold place for at least 1 hour.

Drain chopped tomatoes, toss with wheat mixture, and evenly stuff tomato shells. Any extra stuffing can flow over sides. Place 1 stuffed shell on each plate. Cut each remaining 3 tomatoes into 6 wedges and garnish each plate with 3 tomato wedges, radiating out like spokes of a wheel; intersperse with romaine leaves. Serves 6.

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