Photo: Kang Kim. Illustrations by John Burgoyne.

Parsley, the perennial garnish, gets to shine in tabbouleh, the Middle Eastern salad whose parsley content, according to ilili chef-owner Philippe Massoud, corresponds directly to a country’s water supply. Nowhere is it greener, he says, than in his native Lebanon, where grains of bulgur in a typical tabbouleh are few and far between. The crucial steps are drying the herb completely and stemming it well. “We are the only restaurant I know of that serves leaf-only parsley,” says Massoud. “It’s costly, but it’s worth it.”

Philippe Massoud’s Tabbouleh

6 bunches Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
1 bunch mint
1 large or two small heirloom tomatoes, enough to yield 2 cups
1 large peeled Spanish onion
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of allspice
1 cup bulgur
2 heads romaine lettuce (to yield 16 inner leaves from the heart)

(1) Pick the parsley leaves from the stems, wash thoroughly, and spin in salad spinner to dry. Spread leaves on a tray and let air-dry completely. Pick, wash, and dry mint leaves in the same way. Using a sharp knife, chiffonade the parsley and crosscut three times, to yield 4 cups. Chiffonade the mint to yield ½ cup. (2) Core and seed the tomato, and cut in ¼-inch dice to yield two cups. Finely dice the onion to yield ½ cup. Combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and allspice in a small Tupperware container. Seal, and shake well to blend. Wash bulgur thoroughly until the water runs clear. Strain and squeeze to remove all excess water. Clean romaine thoroughly, peeling away outer leaves to expose the heart and slicing off the top two (greenest) inches. In a mixing bowl, combine the parsley, mint, 1½ cups of diced tomato, onion, and bulgur. Gently mix with a spoon to incorporate the ingredients, being careful not to bruise them. Add the dressing and mix again. (3) Place mixture in a serving bowl and arrange the romaine-heart leaves around the perimeter. Garnish with remaining tomato. Use the romaine leaves as edible utensils.