Ever since I lived in Greece, tabouli has been one of my favorite salads. Tabouli, or tabbouleh, is commonly served throughout the Middle East as a starter or side dish.
Traditionally, wheat bulgur forms the base of a simple tabouli, since it was readily available in Syria and Lebanon where the dish originated. The wheat formed a hearty base for a filling main dish where meat was scarce, so it’s a natural vegetarian favorite.
Most taboulis contain parsley, while some regions add lettuce. There are variations that tip the scales in favor of the wheat bulgur, with parsley being almost a garnish, while in other areas the wheat is sprinkled in less liberally.
My personal favorite variation on tabouli uses quinoa instead of wheat bulgur. I tried it once to accommodate a friend’s gluten-free diet, and liked it so much it’s now my favorite tabouli.
I add garbanzo beans for even more protein, and enjoy this version as a meal all on its own. Pita bread — for those not gluten sensitive — makes this tabouli even more filling. (Slap a spread of hummus inside the pita before filling with tabouli. Ooh, la la!)
One of the best parts of this salad is that it gets better with time, and keeps well unrefrigerated. Make it the day before, or at least several hours before serving, to allow flavors to play off each other.
California Quinoa Tabouli
2 cups uncooked quinoa
3 bunches curly parsley
1 English cucumber
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 medium tomatoes, diced
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup lemon juice
½ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons crushed dried mint (or ¼ cup chopped fresh mint leaves)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook quinoa per instructions on the package. (I use 3 cups water to 2 cups dry quinoa in my rice cooker.) Let cool.
Remove most of the stems from parsley and chop finely. Add to a large mixing bowl with quinoa.
Slice cucumber lengthwise and again into 8 strips. Cut into ¾-inch chunks. Add green onions, bell pepper, tomatoes, garbanzo beans, lemon juice, olive oil, mint and salt and pepper. Mix well and taste; adjust seasoning if desired.
Flavors will become more pronounced as salad sits. Cover and refrigerate for several hours to overnight.