May it Please the Palate

 Tryin’ to catch me eatin’ dirty

A few years back, a musician named “Chamillionaire” hit the big time with a song called “Ridin’” or “Ridin’ Dirty.” Lyrics included: 

“They see me rollin’

 They hatin’

 Patrolling they tryin to catch me ridin’ dirty”

What is “ridin’ dirty?” According to Urban Dictionary, this is “To roll in your car with drugs, guns, or other s*** you don’t want the cops to find. Usually drugs.”

Today there is a new, much more ominous danger. According to our friends in the food police, you don’t want to get caught “Eatin’ dirty.” “Clean eating” is the new gastronomical buzz phrase. According to Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, “Food that’s clean is food that’s for the most part real food and not encumbered with things that compromise health: artificial flavorings, artificial colorings, sugar substitutes.” 

So in other words, if you’ve got a bag of groceries in the back seat of the Prius loaded with nitrites, food dyes, and high fructose corn syrup, you’re ridin’ dirty. 

According to Katz, “The clean eating rule of thumb: The shorter the ingredient list, the better.  No specific food is off-limits as long as it’s a real, honest-to-goodness food.” Food writer Michael Pollan writes, “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” 

So if great-grandma looks at your Krispy Kreme Breakfast Sandwich and her eyes boggle uncomprehendingly, you might want to re-think your eating habits. The start of the new year is always a time for new beginnings. Resolve to eat healthy, clean, and simple.

Here’s a recipe of which an Arabic great grandmother would definitely approve. Tabbouleh seemingly has as many recipes as spelling variations, but essentially includes bulghur wheat, cucumber, tomatoes, garlic, onion, and herbs. Bright, colorful, and full of flavor, this version from the Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten) was one of the bigger hits of our holiday meals.

Ingredients

1 cup bulghur wheat

1 1/2 cups boiling water

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)

1/4 cup good olive oil

3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 cup minced scallions, white and green parts (1 bunch)

1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves (1 bunch)

1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (1 bunch)

1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and medium-diced

2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 Directions

1. Place the bulghur in a large bowl, pour in the boiling water, and add the lemon juice, olive oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Stir, then allow to stand at room temperature for about 1 hour.

2. Add the scallions, mint, parsley, cucumber, tomatoes, 2 teaspoons salt, and the pepper; mix well. Season, to taste, and serve or cover and refrigerate. The flavor will improve if the tabbouleh sits for a few hours.

Bonus was pouring some of the excess juice over the freshly baked salmon, which along with the tabbouleh and some roast potatoes, made a delicious “clean” holiday meal.

Leaving plenty of room to go for a ride after dinner for a dirty little snack.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

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