I don’t know about where you live, but around Chicago it’s been a pretty freakishly hot summer. I’ve been effectively using the baby as an excuse not to leave the air-conditioning pretty much since June, and I’m sorry to say that my poor garden has gone completely neglected. The tomatoes were left cage-less (hmmm… cage-free tomatoes, maybe there’s a marketing spin there…) , there was not a chip of mulch to be found until last week, and everything is looking fairly sad and withered-looking. Except of course, the mint and parsley, which I’m convinced could grow out of the cracks in our sidewalk. As sad as I am about the lack of beautiful homegrown tomatoes, which I’ve been looking forward to since we finished the last of the tomatoes last year, there is a bright side. And the bright side is this quinoa tabbouleh.
Tabbouleh is a middle-eastern herb salad typically made with bulgur. I’ve always really liked tabbouleh, ever since my mom would buy it at the fancy-pants grocery store, Treasure Island, when I was a kid. This was back in the early nineties, and things like tabbouleh weren’t exactly available in the usual chain grocery stores, so it was a treat. And I kind of felt pretty grown up eating it. Something about the fresh herb flavor with a hint of garlic and lots of big lemony tang still brings back memories of the stuff mom used to buy at Treasure Island. However, I’m sure this is so much better than that stuff ever was.
First of all, in this version, the bulgur (cracked wheat) is replaced with quinoa, my newest favorite grain, as witnessed by this recipe and this recipe. As I’ve mentioned before, quinoa is one of those super grains that’s packed with fiber and protein and has a really versatile flavor and texture. It works amazingly well in a tabbouleh salad, because it really soaks up the flavorful dressing and it’s fluffy, light texture doesn’t weigh down the herbs.
Also, I know that the mint and parsley are traditional for tabbouleh, but I really like the hint of licorice-y flavor your get from just a little bit of basil. And at this time of year, when basil seems to be everywhere, I find myself adding a little bit of it into whatever I’m making. It almost always makes it better.
The only thing that could have made this better would have been if I would have had some tomatoes from my garden. But, sadly, my pathetic garden has yet to bring any forth, so I had to settle from some fairly rosy ones from the market. It wasn’t ideal, but with all the other big flavors going on here, I can’t say that I minded too much. Even with the sub-par tomatoes, this was one of my favorite things I’ve made all summer. I’ve made this a few times now, each time making a pretty big batch, then munching on it throughout the week. It definitely gets better as it sits in your fridge, too, with the flavors blending and intensifying. It works great as a dip for some pita chip or crackers, or as a side all its own with your dinner. It also makes a great topping for a green salad, too. The possibilities are endless… and so delicious.
Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad
*If you’d like, you could absolutely substitute cooked bulgur for the quinoa for a more traditional tabbouleh.
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa (I like this one)
4 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
½ medium ripe tomato, diced
In a large bowl, whisk together garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add quinoa, parsley, scallions, mint, basil, and tomato, and toss until well combined and coated with dressing. Season to taste.
Refrigerate at least an hour for best flavor.