Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My favorite side dish

You spell it tabouli, I spell it tabbouleh, tabouli, tabbouleh, tabouli, tabbouleh...
...let's eat the whole thing up!

I could eat tabbouleh with every meal and not get tired of it. I make it about once a month and I learned very quickly that the recipe I was using from Bon Appetit magazine wasn't nearly large enough. I doubled it. That still wasn't enough. So the last handful of times I've made this, I have quadrupled the recipe and that's just about right, if you eat it as much and as fast as we do.

Rather than using bulgur wheat, which is traditional in the popular Lebanese dish, this recipe calls for quinoa, a grain with roughly two to three times the protein as bulgur, and a good balance of amino acids. Commercially available quinoa has already been rinsed thoroughly enough to remove the bitter-tasting saponin residue that grows on the seeds, something which helps keep the birds away. I think it would be fun to try to grow quinoa, but I imagine it wouldn't like our central Texas heat. It's typically grown in South America, in the high altitude of the Andes, in countries like Bolivia and Peru.

I've already doubled the recipe for you, but if you plan to serve this at a picnic or gathering, you'll want to double it again. To make it easier on you, I've already done the math. Note*-The numbers in parentheses are the quadruple amounts. (You're welcome!)

Quinoa Tabbouleh

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (1/2 cup-see note* above)

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (1/2 cup)

1 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (2 1/2 cups)

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint (1 cup)

2 garlic cloves, minced (4 cloves)

2 cups water (4 cups)

1 cup quinoa (2 cups)

1 cup finely chopped cucumber, peeled and seeded (2 cups)

1 cup chopped seeded tomato (2 cups)

Optional additions: grated carrot, diced celery, bell pepper, jicama, etc. I usually keep these to a minimum, but I do like the addition of colorful orange flecks of carrot or yellow bell pepper, though they are NOT traditional in tabbouleh.

Instructions: Bring water to a boil in heavy medium saucepan. Add quinoa, cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 13 minutes. When done, remove from pan, tossing in a large bowl. Fluff with fork periodically while cooling completely. (This part is important. Allow enough time for the cooling step, because if you mix everything up while the quinoa is hot, it'll make the vegetable lose their crunch and mess up the texture.) While the quinoa is cooling, mix the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, and mint together in a separate large bowl.

Next, chop the cucumber, tomato, and any other optional vegetables you want, and add them to the olive oil mixture. Last, add in the quinoa and add salt and pepper to taste, mixing well. Serve either chilled or at room temperature.