Tabouleh is a simple salad which hails from the part of the Middle East that covers Palestine, Lebanon and Syria.
It’s usually made with bulgur, tomatoes, cucumbers, finely chopped parsley, mint, and onion seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice and salt. There are endless variations to bulgur, the most notorious one is subbing bulgur with couscous. Yotam Ottolenghi describes in his cookbook how during his career he has come across a million bastardised versions of this simple dish. Some of which were way out of line. The most common issue has to do with proportions. In this dish parsley has to be the star of the show alongside with mint (not the grains nor the veggies). Also, herbs need to be chopped very thinly (and with a knife not a food processor) so that they can properly release their flavors and volatile oils.
As I wanted to make my own version of tabbouleh, I decided to swap the bulgur with quinoa. Chef Ottolenghi would probably disagree but hey, you’ve got to experiment in the kitchen.
Using quinoa has many advantages, first and foremost in that it makes the tabbouleh gluten-free. Also, this dish becomes nutritionally complete: complex carbs, all essential aminoacids, healthy greens and precious fats. In a way, using quinoa transforms this dish from a side-dish (traditionally served with lamb or other meat) to a complete meal, that fills your belly with awesomeness. It’s so quick to prepare (although - to be honest - there’s some hard labour involved in chopping all those herbs) that I do urge to make this reinvented version of this classic refreshing salad.
Especially as we enter the warmer months, this quinoa tabbouleh can be a satisfying meal to serve when you have friends over and want to make an impression.
I used a mix of red and black quinoa in this salad because of nuttier flavor and the color contrast it creates with the red of the tomato and the green of the fresh herbs. However, white quinoa works just as well.
1 cup / 6 oz / 170 gr quinoa
1 ½ cup / 375 ml water
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 cups / 4.2 oz / 120 gr loosely packed fresh parsley, finely chopped
½ cup / 1 oz / 30 gr fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, diced
2 medium shallots, very finely chopped
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Thoroughly wash quinoa. Transfer to a pot and, over medium heat, toast for 6 to 8 minutes stirring frequently. Add water, 1 teaspoon of coarse sea salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until quinoa is cooked, about 15 to 16 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork and let cool at room temperature.
Transfer quinoa to a bowl, add tomatoes, parsley, mint, cucumber and shallots. Add olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly to combine.
Serve chilled at room temperature.
One serving yields 230 calories, 8.5 grams of fat, 32 grams of carbs and 8 grams of protein.