Tabbouleh is an Arabic salad originating from the Levant, with virtually every country in the Middle East having their own form of tabbouleh. It consists of chopped vegetables, herbs, and some form of wheat product such as bulgur or couscous tossed in olive oil, salt, and lemon juice. The Lebanese version of tabbouleh is decidedly a parsley salad with just a hint of bulgur to temper its pungent grassiness. In this recipe, bulgur is substituted with nutritious quinoa, along with cranberries and sliced radishes for a sweet crunch that plays off the bitter and sour notes of the parsley and lemon. Tabbouleh has become popular in the West and justly so – it represents all the best aspects of Middle Eastern cuisine: fresh, bold flavors that capture the full spectrum of the human palate. Any Lebanese person would scoff at the presence of quinoa or the proportion of parsley suggested here, but the principle idea behind tabbouleh is still present.
Although some moisture is inevitable, the key to crisp, fluffy tabbouleh is to eliminate as much water content from your ingredients as possible. Fundamentally, tabbouleh is simply a chopped salad with grains, but some attention to detail can help yield a superior product. Chopping every ingredient by hand and making liberal use of the salad spinner to keep the ingredients dry is worth the time to avoid a soggy, mushy salad. As always the case with simple, uncooked foods, the ingredients will speak for themselves – aim to use the highest quality produce and olive oil that is available.
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 2 cups water
- 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley with stalks discarded, chopped
- 1 bunch radishes, sliced into discs
- 4 Lebanese cucumbers, diced
- 3 medium tomatoes, diced
- 1 shallot, diced
- ¼ cup dried cranberries, raisins, or pomegranate seeds
- 1 tbsp sumac (optional)
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Rinse the quinoa in cold water in a fine mesh strainer. In a pot, add 1 cup of quinoa with 2 cups of cool water and bring to a boil. Immediately lower the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for 15 – 20 minutes or until the quinoa has fully absorbed the water. Set aside in the refrigerator to cool.
Meanwhile, prepare the chopped ingredients, liberally using a salad spinner to eliminate excess moisture from the parsley, radishes, cucumbers, and shallots.
When the quinoa is cooled to room temperature, combine the the parsley, radishes, cucumbers, tomatoes, shallots, cranberries, quinoa, lemon juice, and olive oil in a large mixing bowl or salad bowl and toss to coat. Season generously with salt, black pepper, and sumac (optional) to taste.
For a more authentic, parsley-heavy salad, reduce the amount of quinoa in half.