The first time I had this salad was at an end of harvest festival hosted by Canaan Fair Trade. Food tastings were peppered throughout their beautiful Jenin store, among which were maftoul salad samples. It was all that I could do not to bogart the mini-cup samples as if I was in a Costco aisle back in California. I comported myself and asked the sales associate who was in charge of “recipe development”. The credit went to Nasser Abufarha’s mother, who I wish I had the chance to meet since her dish has paid several parties forward. Nasser is Canaan’s founder and instrumental to introducing the fair trade system into Palestinian farm life. I remember how he generously welcomed me to have some more after witnessing my amazement over maftoul as a cold dish akin to pasta salad.
Maftoul has a course texture from the whole wheat bulgur that makes it less prone to becoming soggy than pasta. The sun dried hand rolled pearls have a toasted flavor. The currants (or raisins) and sautéed onions in the recipe below add a dimension that keeps this salad from being a modified version of tabouleh.
Maftoul, 2 boxes
Fine black pepper, 1 teaspoon
Sea salt, 1 teaspoon
Hot water, 2 1/2 cups
Nabali Olive Oil, 1/4 cup
Currants or golden raisins, 1 cup
Yellow or white onion, 1 medium, diced
Scallions,1 bunch, thinly sliced
Parsley, 1 bunch
Cayenne (or other red) peppers, 2, seeded and thinly sliced
Lemon, 1 juiced
Za’atar, 1 teaspoon
Whether you prepare the maftoul a day in advance or on the same day as serving, allow about 30 minutes of cool down time before mixing in other ingredients.
Before you begin to cook stovetop, be sure to have the hot water ready to go for its shining moment. If you use an electric kettle, you can begin making the maftoul as soon as the kettle turns off. Add one tablespoon of olive oil in a sauce pot on low heat. Follow with the maftoul, and toss it in the oil so that it’s being coated for about a minute, and add the salt and pepper. Keep tossing maftoul while your eye remains on the pot to prevent burning. Pour in the the hot water until it’s about 1/8 of an inch above the maftoul. Allow to boil for 15 minutes, or until the maftoul has absorbed all the water and you should be able to fluff the maftoul pearls with a fork. Pour into a wide, shallow bowl and set aside to cool.
Chop and mince scallions, parsley, and peppers. Soak the currants in a bowl of tepid water for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, sauté the chopped onion in a 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of olive oil – this is one of those times “cooking with your eyes” comes into play, in order to gauge the needs of your onion depending on its size. Sauté until translucent.
In the bowl of maftoul, add the scallions, parsley, peppers, raisins and sautéed onions. Top with the 1/4 cup of olive oil, lemon juice and za’atar, and begin mixing. Serve immediately, or chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Prepare to have your friends ask you to make this for their next party.