The Santa Fe Opera is in full swing. It is one of the biggest events in the city and attracts visitors from all over the world. As the season gets closer to the end, apprentices are given a chance to show off their skills. The apprentices are accomplished young singers and technical specialists, usually finishing up their graduate studies, who work hard during the season as choristers, walk-ons, understudies, and production assistants. Many of them will be future stars. Right now they are eager young people who are thrilled to perform. In August there are two apprentice programs where they perform scenes from the standard repertoire in ensemble with costumes, bare-bone sets, and only a piano for accompaniment. But they give it their all.
This last weekend we went to the first apprentice program of the season. It was filled with music and a lot of fun. Besides that, it provided us another chance to enjoy the beauty of the opera house and its lovely setting. People-watching is fun, and it is pleasant to wander the grounds, have a glass of wine, and wait for the sun to set so that the performance can begin.
We usually tail-gate. Yes, that is one of the traditions of the Santa Fe Opera, with many patrons in tuxedos or long gowns sitting in the parking lot at folding tables decked out with white linen, candles, china, wine glasses, and good silverware.
For this event we didn’t participate in the tail-gate ritual. Instead, we had appetizers and a good glass of wine at one of the restaurants on the Plaza we often visit. We ordered a mezze platter that arrived at our table with beautifully composed ramekins filled with hummus, olives, carrot salad, and – of course – tabbouleh. None was spicy or even well salted. The biggest disappointment was the tabbouleh.
This refreshing salad is one of my summer favorites ever since the first time I ever had it nearly 40 years ago. A young woman from a Lebanese family brought it to an office potluck.
Tabbouleh is not hard to make (It is hard to spell), but it is easy to mess up. It needs enough lemon to have zing, enough mint and parsley to have a fresh crispness, and tomato and olive oil to round out the flavors. Sadly, our restaurant’s version had none of those things. Here’s my effort to please your palate, but the beauty of tabbouleh is that you can adjust the recipe to your taste. If you don’t like bulgur, use less. If you like parsley and mint, use more. Adjust the lemon juice, salt, and olive oil to please you. Whatever you do, you will find that the cook will be sneaking tastes – to make adjustments, of course – before the salad is served.
- 1 cup bulgur
- boiling water, enough to cover the tabbouleh with about 2 inches more
- 1 large tomato, peeled, seeded, juiced, and diced
- 1 cup finely minced parsley
- 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint
- 3 scallions, chopped finely
- 2 snacking cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
- juice of 1 fresh lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste
- Pour the bulgur into a large bowl. Cover with enough boiling water to cover with an extra 2 inches. Set aside for at least 1 hour.
- In the meantime, combine all of the remaining ingredients in a small bowl.
- When the bulgur has absorbed most of the water and is softened, drain in a fine-meshed sieve. Squeeze out as much water as you can with your hands. Return the bulgur to the bowl.
- Stir in the remaining ingredients. Adjust to taste with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice if desired. Let rest for 30 minutes to allow the bulgur to absorb the lemon juice and for the flavors to meld.
- Serve on a bed of lettuce leaves at room temperature.