Need a dish to take to a pot luck that can be made ahead, travels easily, holds its own at room temperature, and almost anyone can, and will, eat?
Here's my favorite. I make it most in the summer when tomatoes are a thing of wonder and our gardens are producing more than we can eat, but this dish has appeal year round.
There are two things about most tabbouleh salads that cause them to languish uneaten at parties: they contain gluten and they are one of too many grain dishes on the table. This version is both gluten free and a salad, a yummy one at that.
I'll bet more people say they hate quinoa than those who say they hate brussels sprouts. Hate quinoa no more! You don't like it because it requires some special handling to remove the anti-nutrients (stuff that interferes with nutrient absorption, such as phytic acid and lectins) in it. It just so happens that when you remove the anti-nutrients, it tastes better too! Who would have guessed?!
So you'll have to start the quinoa at least 24 hours before you head out to the festivities. I've provided a recipe for precooking the quinoa and a couple of links about quinoa's nutritional value below, under the heading How To Prepare Quinoa That Tastes Good.
Once you've got the quinoa cooked and cooled, you can throw the salad together thus:
- Rinse and coarsely chop one bunch of parsley. Put it in a large mixing bowl.
- Rinse and coarsley chop one bunch of cilantro. Pop that in the bowl too.
- Peel (or not) a cucumber and dice it, seeds and all. Into the bowl with them.
- Dice two or three tomatoes, or halve a full pint or two of cherry or grape tomatoes (you might still be able to score some nice greenhouse grown cherry tomatoes at the farmer's markets) and into the bowl they go.
Now for the hard part.
Add your precooked quinoa (recipe below), but not too much! One cup cooked ought to do it. The quinoa will make up at most 1/4 of the bulk of the salad. It's a salad, not a grain dish, remember?
Add two tablespoons of lemon juice
Add 1/3 cup of your best olive oil, preferably from a Mediterranean country. None of that French stuff, which has its place, but not in tabbouleh.
I tend to leave raw onion out of dishes for potlucks, but for myself I'd add a little very finely chopped red onion or, even better, shallots. A tiny tad of garlic too. Too much garlic can ruin tabbouleh, so take it easy.
Sprinkle salt to your heart's content and don't be shy with black pepper, preferably freshly ground.
Toss it all together. Be careful not to stir it, just fluff it together with a fork. Adjust the seasoning and oil to your taste.
How To Prepare Quinoa That Tastes Good
I used to hate quinoa, then I figured out how to make it taste good. Here is my technique.
First, ya gotta soak that stuff overnight to get rid of the nasty taste.
- Rinse one cup of quinoa, put the quinoa in a one quart jar
- Fill the jar 3/4 ish with water
- Add 2 tablespoons of whey, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
Cover the jar with something that will "breathe" and let it sit on your counter overnight.
Essentially you are fermenting the quinoa for a day. If you shake it a tiny bit the next day you will see foam at the top.
And it sprouts a bit!
You'll have way more than you need for the tabbouleh recipe above
so go ahead and enjoy some of it hot.
If you'd like to know more about the benefits of soaking your whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes before eating them, this article is a good place to start. Basically, they are much better for you that way. And in the case of quinoa, a grain (technically it's a seed) that many people hate, it tastes better too. Quinoa is worth the extra effort. It's a powerhouse of nutrients and is considered to be a complete protein because it provides all nine essential amino acids, pure gold for a vegetarian. For some quick nutrition facts on the stuff, look here
When you're ready to cook the quinoa, strain it, rinse it once or twice, then let it drain while you bring 1 1/2 cups of water and 1 tsp of salt to the boil. Put the quinoa in the boiling water, bring it all back to a simmer, cover it tightly, lower the heat to low (the same heat you use to cook rice) and let it cook, covered, for 20 - 25 minutes if you are going to eat it cold in a salad, or for 30 minutes if you want to eat it hot right then and there. For the tabbouleh recipe above, see the pro tip below!
Pro tip: If you are going to use quinoa cold as in a salad (or rice, or cracked wheat, or buckwheat, or any "grain") you must let it cool to room temperature or even colder UNDISTURBED IN THE PAN YOU COOKED IT IN. It's OK to just put the pan right into the fridge, once it has cooled a bit of course, until you're ready to make the salad or cold grain dish. When the grain is cool, you can easily break it up into individual grains without its getting clumpy and mushy.
All images are my own unless otherwise stated.