Farmers' Market Favorite: Quinoa Tabbouleh (Gluten-Free)

Tabbouleh, tabouleh, tabouli, tabbouli, well there are as many versions of this bright Mediterranean salad as there are variations in its spelling, and this gluten-free version is yet another. Quinoa, a gluten-free ‘grain’, actually a seed, is substituted for the traditional bulgur wheat, so that those who are watching their gluten intake aren't left out in the cold. You'll never miss the wheat.

I’m a tad obsessed with this salad, and order it at every Middle Eastern restaurant at which it’s offered. The ratio of parsley to grain to dressing is different everywhere I go, and while all are usually anywhere from decent to great, my favorite version will be bright and lemony, with the delicious benign sting of garlic, more parsley than grain, and a little bit of salt-- enough to complement the olive oil.

This recipe makes two large servings as an entrée, and when served with, perhaps, some good pita bread and a quick hummus, is a perfect choice for a Meatless Monday meal. It yields about 4 servings for a smaller side salad.

The longer this salad sits, the more intense the flavors, so for that Meatless Monday supper, I like to prepare it on Sunday evening, and let it do its thing in the fridge, covered, for 12 hours or longer.

Quinoa Tabbouleh (Gluten-Free)

1 cup prepared quinoa, cooked according to package directions
½ c chopped cucumber
½ c chopped tomato
3 cups parsley, chopped
1 bunch of fresh mint, de-stemmed and chopped
1 bunch scallions, green tops, only, sliced finely
1/3 c lemon juice
1 cup olive oil
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt, to taste

A few notes about preparing ingredients:

  • If package directions do not indicate rinsing quinoa, be sure to take this step first to remove any bitterness. In a fine strainer, run water over quinoa, ‘stirring’ with clean fingers to rinse fully. Drain well.

  • Cucumbers and tomatoes can be seeded before chopping.  Seeds can cause indigestion, and for those who do not tolerate these vegetables well, seeding can be a great solution.  Me?  I all in. I kind of like the seeds, in fact. 
  • And that cucumber can be peeled if you prefer.  Again, I’m a big fan of cucumbers, peeled or unpeeled. I used an Armenian cucumber for this version. Both Armenian and Persian cucumbers have delicate seeds and skin, so I didn’t bother. 
  • Chopping parsley?  Well if I had the spare time, I might spend it de-stemming parsley. It’s tedious work. And because I rarely do have that much spare time, I rarely do so. Instead, I chop down from the top of the bunch through the bottom of the leaves, and discard the toughest stems. 

  • Mint?  DO de-stem mint. It’s easy, and the stems are almost indigestible. I reserve them for steeping and infusing teas and liquids.
  • Ratios:  If you prefer to cook in rough ratios, think 3:1—3 parts parsley to 1 part quinoa for the salad, 3 parts oil to 1 part lemon juice for the dressing. 
  • If you like the lemony notes of tabbouleh as much as I do, you may want to zest the lemons that you juice, but this is not necessary.  It’s delicious, but not necessary.
  • Garlic—for the love of all that’s holy, please use real garlic. Don’t use that jarred stuff. DON’T.  Separate one or two cloves from the bulb, smash them with a good thwonk to the side of a chef’s knife, peel away the skin, and mince. Maybe a minute’s work, tops. And smashing is good for the spirit. Smash away.
Are you ever surprised to find your mother's hands at the end of your arms?

In a large salad bowl, whisk together lemon juice (and zest, if using), olive oil, garlic, and salt. Add remaining ingredients and toss well to combine.  Refrigerate for 1 hour or more, serving chilled.

This recipe was prepared as an in-season monthly guest chef demonstration at the Cedar Park and Mueller Farmers' Markets, in Austin, Texas.

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