Have you ever eaten a dish somewhere and became utterly consumed with duplicating it? Well that somewhere was Nuba, a Lebanese restaurant in downtown Vancouver, and that dish was tabbouleh. What I conjured up isn’t traditional tabbouleh (or tabouli), but for a beginner in Middle Eastern or Mediterranean cooking it will suffice.
Not that this recipe holds a candle to what I ate, but it’s a nice, refreshing substitute. Did I mention it was incredibly easy too? Though traditional tabbouleh does not use a much, or sometimes any, bulgur as is found in North American and European adaptations, adding bulgur or quinoa gives the salad a healthy boost. Likewise, amping up the lemon juice gives it a kick the salad couldn’t do without. So I frantically squeezed a trip to the grocery store in between working overtime and trying to make it home for a girl’s night, just in time to get home to whip up this easy, fast, budget-friendly, and healthy Middle Eastern salad. It’s perfect for an appetizer with hummus, falafel or pita, or simply eaten as a side salad to accompany lamb or chicken–every reason to try this flavourful recipe is staring you in the face.
The only suggestion I might make is try to find bulgur wheat and fresh mint if you can; since I only had quinoa on hand and zero mint in the grocery store I had to make it work. An extra handful of chopped parsley and some spice–by way of more cayenne or even a finely diced chili pepper–would also benefit this dish nicely. What are you waiting for? Don’t hold off until spring to prepare lighter fare; bring it to your plate tonight and your stomach will thank you.
Tabbouleh with Falafel
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Light & Healthy 2011
1/2 cup cooked quinoa or uncooked fine- or medium-grain bulgur wheat
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
3 cups minced fresh parsley
2 medium tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped
2-3 green onions (scallions), minced
2 tbsp. minced fresh mint
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. minced chili pepper (optional)
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
Salt & pepper
- Cook quinoa and set aside to cool; place in a sieve to remove any excess liquid. For bulgur: rinse bulgur thoroughly under running water, set aside and drain for 5 minutes. Toss quinoa/bulgur with 1/4 lemon juice and let sit, about 20 to 40 minutes. **Taste the quinoa to see if you need more lemon juice. I did.
- If making falafel, now would be a good time to do that. Below is Casbah boxed falafel mix. It tastes really great, is cheap and takes 15 minutes from start to finish.
- Stir in the parsley, tomatoes, green onion, and mint. In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining 4 tsp. lemon juice, oil, 1/4 tsp. salt, cayenne and chili pepper (if using). Pour over parsley mixture, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.
The tabbouleh will keep for up to two days, though the green onion taste will intensify, hence my cutting down the amount from the original recipe’s usage of 4 green onion stalks. Adding some freshly minced parsley will freshen this up as well.