Falafel for the Masses

The 31st Lebanese Food Festival gears up the weekend.

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St. Anthony’s Maronite Catholic Church’s Annual Lebanese Food Festival is a whopping 31 years old. And it’s a party.

Before the event begins, organizer Sarah Joseph Brown says, volunteers call themselves the “choir”: “Our instruments are the clanging of bowls, pans and ovens, along with shovels and hammers, as we set up and prepare for our event.”

The groundwork for the festival begins in February, and all of the 250 families who attend St. Anthony’s are involved in one way or another — whether it’s hands-on cooking or as one of the runners who refills the trays. Some families participating span three or even four generations. These volunteers keep things running smoothly and make the tabouli, falafel and shawarma possible during the three days of the festival.

“Each of our 30,000 meat, cheese, and our spinach and feta pies are a labor of love,” Brown says, “handmade by the wonderful parish cooks who volunteer their time in our commercial kitchen.”

Lots of live music and some expert traditional dancing are a staple at every festival. “The dance groups begin learning our cultural dances at age 4,” she says.

Bulk and to-go food is available as well. The festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, May 15, and Saturday, May 16, and on Sunday, May 17, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., on the church grounds next to Innsbrook at 4611 Sadler Road.

For more information call 270-7234 or visit stanthonymaronitechurch.org. And in the meantime, you can whip a batch of your own tabouli, from this recipe graciously provided by St. Anthony's.

St. Anthony’s Tabouli

Ingredients:

2 cups cracked wheat (bulgur)

4 large diced tomatoes

2 bunches green onions finely chopped (or substitute an onion), about 1 cup

1/2 cup olive oil

juice of 2 large lemons (about 6-8 tablespoons)

1 cup fresh mint leaves or 1/4 to 1/3 cup of dried mint, crushed

2 bunches fresh parsley leaves, chopped

6 leaves romaine lettuce

Directions:

Rinse the bulgur. Drain it in a fine mesh strainer and squeeze out the excess water. Place in a large bowl and set aside. Finely chop the parsley, mint, green onions and tomatoes and add to the bowl. Pour the lemon juice over everything and mix thoroughly.

Place 1/2 cup serving on romaine lettuce leaf and serve. (Best served cold.)

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