Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad
This tabbouleh salad is super easy to make and a great way to use fresh mint and flat-leafed parsley from the garden, if you’ve got ‘em. It also suits just about any type of diet... gluten-free, grain-free (quinoa is more closely related to chard than any grain!), low carb, nut-free, vegan, you name it. Plus, it’s chock-full of fresh vitamins and minerals. It could be the basis for your next healthy meal.
My version of this traditional recipe is adapted from David Lebovitz’s blog. Check out his version too for lots of great cooking tips. His posts are always very informative and interesting, even if they don’t always include actual recipes.
To make this recipe gluten-free, I use quinoa, instead of the more traditional bulgur or couscous. To cook quinoa, rinse the dry quinoa thoroughly and remove any little sticks or stones. Cover the quinoa with an equal amount of water in a saucepan. I usually add a little salt and olive oil too. Bring to a boil and then simmer (covered) for about 12-15 minutes until the quinoa has expanded, the little spirals are visible, and the water is fully absorbed. Remove from heat, loosen with fork, and then cover for another 10 minutes or so to let it 'fluff up' completely. Cooking time will vary depending on the quinoa. If there's too much water at the end, remove the lid and turn up the heat to cook the extra water off. It's easy to make, very similar to rice but much quicker.
Just as I make a pot or two of some type of bean or legume to use throughout the week, I always have some leftover cooked rice, or quinoa, or roasted potatoes, or gluten-free pasta on hand in the fridge. (As a rule I make extra when cooking dinner.) It makes it so much easier to throw together a quick and healthy lunch if you’ve got some basic ingredients already on hand.
I make this tabbouleh salad when I already have some cooked quinoa in the fridge. The recipe is best with cold or room temperature quinoa. Hot quinoa, straight off the stove, would wilt the fresh herbs.
As for fresh herbs, I used to dread preparing them until I got my salad spinner. Now it’s so easy to sort the fresh herbs into the spinner (parsley, mint, cilantro, whatever), removing any large stems along the way. Then rinse thoroughly under the tap, and spin. (The salad spinner then just needs a quick rinse and to be set a side to dry. I only give it a real wash it every so often.)
Preparing the parsley, I hold the stalks in one hand and pluck the fine branches with leaves off with the other. For mint, I zip the leaves off the stalks, going against the grain from tip to base, and then pluck the tender tips off to use as well. To chop, hold them in a tight-packed bunch and thinly slice with a sharp knife. From there you can chop and re-chop on your cutting board. The key is to get them very fine.
If you aren’t used to cooking without specific measurements, this is a good recipe to try. It’s hard to mess up. Sometimes I have more of one herb than the other, and it still comes out great. Maybe I use more or less tomatoes, or quinoa, and it doesn't hurt a thing. Love onions, then add an extra one... Don’t like them, just use one, or omit them entirely.
The following is my favorite blend. However- as with any recipe- you will make it your own.
When I say a large bunch of mint and parsley, picture a generous bouquet of herbs. Don’t worry too much, as this recipe scales up or down with ease. Envision how much salad you want to make, and go from there. Even a very large bouquet of herbs chops down to far, far less than you might think. Ideally you’re looking for equal amounts of parsley and mint.
Also, I use cherry tomatoes, but you could use other types. If you have very juicy tomatoes, then wait to add them until the end. Otherwise your beautiful salad might get soggy.
Now it’s your turn to get cookin’!
PS. Recently I went to make this dish and realized at the last minute that I was completely out of mint in the garden. :(
So I made it using using half parsley, a quarter fresh basil, and a quarter fresh cilantro. It came out really great. As good as- or better than- the fresh mint version. Don't be afraid to experiment with the herbs in this tabbouleh!
Recipe for Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad
These quantities make enough for two bowls (to use as a base for a meal), or enough for four sides
In a large bowl, toss together...
1 large bunch fresh mint, no stems (washed, dried, and very finely chopped)- Or try half basil and half cilantro!
1 large bunch fresh flat-leafed parsley, only fine stems (washed, dried, and very finely chopped)
2 handfuls fresh cherry tomatoes (washed and halved)
2-3 small spring onions (washed, outer layer peeled off, finely chopped)
1/8 teaspoon or 1 large pinch five spice (seven spice or cinnamon serve as substitutes)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa (cold or at room temperature)
Right before serving gently toss in...
Enough good-tasting olive oil to fully moisten everything (but not leave a pool in the bottom of the bowl).
Juice of half a lemon (or more, to taste and depending on how juicy your lemon is).
Additional salt and pepper to taste.
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