A Salad for Celebration: Autumn Tabbouleh in Virginia

A backyard barbecue for a hundred was in order to celebrate my Aunt and Uncle’s nuptials, in their backyard in Virginia, early last month. Friends who cater on the side were called in to prepare slow-smoked pork shoulder, “Carolina coleslaw,” baked beans, and hush puppies – which are a corn-based fritter, filled with seasonings and herbs like onions and parsley.

Slow-smoked pork shoulder

Slow-smoked pork shoulder

My contribution was to make an enormous salad bowl of what I like to call “autumn tabbouleh” and can fluctuate depending on the vegetables and seasoning available. This dish is one of my weekly staples this time of year, especially for bagged lunches to the office.

What follows is more a loose method than an actual recipe – many variations are possible, seasonally and tastefully.

Autumn Tabbouleh in Virginia

Roasted vegetables:

Here I used a whole butternut squash, peeled, cut into half-inch cubes, and tossed in about 1.5 Tbs olive oil, salt, pepper, and cumin. You could sprinkle chipotle pepper, ground coriander, a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, the list goes on… The squash was roasted at about 180C/350F for 20-30 minutes. You want it to get tender without getting too mushy or browned.

Roast butternut

Roast butternut

There are also four roasted beets – rinsed and wrapped in foil, cook them at 180C/350F for an hour to an hour and a half. Check if they’re done by piercing them with a knife; if they’re tender, take them out of the oven and let them cool before peeling.

Colorful beets

Colorful beets

Raw vegetables:

Celery wasn’t part of the plan, but there were three stalks left in the fridge – peeled, chopped, and away we go.

Three bunches of scallions went into this, rinsed and chopped.


I used the seeds of one pomegranate and about a fistful of dried cranberries.

Pomegranate, celery, scallion

Pomegranate, celery, scallion


Cilantro (fresh coriander) went in – a bit more than half a bunch. There was fresh mint in the garden, too, so we added a handful.


The autumn tabbouleh needs a bit of texture. In Paris I usually default to chopped hazlenuts or walnuts, but here in the American middle south, I felt inspired by the pepitas (pumpkin seeds) at the food cooperative.


This is where things get really approximate. I always make the vinaigrette in a jar on the side, first. I used the juice of two lemons, a splashing of cider vinegar, a heaping tablespoon of mustard (one kind or two?), salt, pepper, and a mixture of vegetable and olive oil. Lid on, shaken up, and then gently combined into the large salad bowl.


You can use bulgur, couscous, quinoa – even rice (but then I don’t think you could really call it a tabbouleh…) I generally allot for 60-80 grams of grains per portion. Cook according to package instructions!

Autumn tabbouleh

Autumn tabbouleh



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