Quinoa Tabbouleh

It seems as if its been forever since I’ve spent time in my kitchen. During the end-of-semester crunch, followed by teaching two classes in a three-week May session, I was barely keeping my head above water.  There was precious little time for cooking, and no time for blogging.  It turned into several weeks of late nights, early mornings, and lots of meals eaten away from home. Thank goodness for an inexpensive sushi restaurant close to home, otherwise I’m not sure I could have survived

One of my favorite lunches during the past month was carry-out Mediterranean food from a downtown falafel stand (Ali Baba). So when I was finally ready to tackle a new dish, I had the region in mind.  One of my favorite dishes is Tabbouleh. I’ve never made it myself, but after browsing several recipes it seemed pretty straight-forward and forgiving: bulgar, lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, mint, tomatoes, scallions, and cucumbers are typical ingredients.

As I know I’ve made abundantly  clear, I love quinoa, and use it in recipes whenever possible. Since I had it on hand (and didn’t feel like making a trip to Whole Foods to pick up bulgar), I decided to use this instead. I also had some nice vegetables on-hand from my weekly vegetable box, so I added turnips and kohlrabi. Neither is traditionally added to tabbouleh, but I thought their crisp texture would make a nice addition. I liked having the crunchy vegetables, and so I also decided to add some diced red bell pepper. Another time when I prepared this, I added steamed edamame, which was really good. Overall my approach is to start with a basic recipe, and then add whatever vegetables I have on hand. I think raw crisp vegetables fit the best, but the ingredients can be adjusted as you see fit. I also added a little cider vinegar and cumin to the dressing. I saw cumin in some recipes, but I added the vinegar just because it added another dimension of flavor that I like.

I wanted to play up the lemon flavor in the recipe, and so when I cooked the quinoa I did so in mixture of fresh lemon juice and water.  This worked out really well, and I’ll probably do this when I use quinoa in other summer salads. The quinoa should be prepared at least a bit before you assemble the salad so that it has time to cool. You also need to be careful not to over-cook it so that it will mix easily with the other ingredients.

Finally – if you’re using really fresh ingredients, I found that this will keep in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days. It tasted much better after several hours when the flavors had a chance to meld.

For the quinoa combine in a small saucepan:

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp. salt

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Simmer for 12-15 minutes, until the liquid is just absorbed.  Set aside to cool. (Once the quinoa had cooled slightly, I used a fork to fluff it and transfer it to a large bowl. I put the bowl in refrigerator while I prepared the other ingredients.)

Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the vegetables:

  • 2 cucumbers, peeled and diced (if not using seedless cucumbers, remove the seeds before using. Also, they will be more crisp if after dicing the cucumbers you toss them in a small amount of salt, then place in a colander to drain. They will sweat out some of their juice and stay crisp longer in the salad)
  • several scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes (I used campari, but cherry tomatoes would be fine as well; once I forgot to buy tomatoes and made this without them – it turned out fine).
  • 2 cups chopped parsley (I prefer curly parsley, but it probably doesn’t much matter)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

Optional vegetables that I used include:

  • 2 red bell peppers, diced
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
  • 1 turnip, diced
  • 1 kohlrabi, diced
  • 1 red onion, diced (I soaked the diced onion in water for about 5 minutes then drained it so that it was a bit more mild and also lasts better when combined with the rest of the ingredients).
  • Steamed edamame, cooled

Combine the diced vegetables with the cooled quinoa. Toss with lemon vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar (preferably unfiltered)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp. cumin
Sometimes I eat this as-is, and sometimes I add grilled chicken or steamed shrimp for a more satisfying meal.



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