Monday, March 9, 2009

Presto-Changeo Tabouli

Not your typical Middle Eastern variety, nope.

First off, Tabouli (or tabouleh) is traditionally made with couscous which is wheat. As I don't do wheat very often, I had to find a replacement. To my mind the perfect one is quinoa.

I'd like to sing the praises of quinoa and why I think it makes a superior Tabouli even if you eat tons of wheat and your body likes it.

First off is that the little grains are so cute. Check out their little tails. The grains kinda look like really interesting looking spermies (the kids love it when I say that stuff).

I cook my grains (rice, steel cut oats, quinoa) a bit on the chewy side. I add less water than the usual recipe calls for, adding more at the end if it looks too dry (it's all about balance). When cooked like this, Quinoa Tabouli is crunchy and crisp (=good), not mushy and soggy (= BAD).

But the quinoa virtues don't stop there. It has tons of nutrients and one of the highest protein contents of all the grains.

In this post, I talked about how using different herbs and spices can make a generic dish a different cuisine, depending on what was used.

For the Basic Tabouli Recipe, the springboard, the backbone, I make the quinoa. When the tails appear and the grain is chewy but done, I then remove from heat, putting it into a bowl and add olive oil, minced parsley and salt. Could it be any easier?

Now, depending on which cuisine I have a hankering for, I'll add different things.

Middle Eastern Tabouli- the traditional recipe calls for lemon juice, spring onions, tomatoes, salt and pepper added to the base dish. Don't by shy with any of those. I also add Greek olives, garbanzo beans, lots of feta, shrimp, thinly sliced, raw fennel, mint and shrimp. Sometimes I mix in some toasted almonds or pine nuts as I'm a nut freak. (What's life without crunch?) This dish is Totally Addicting, on the top list of requested summer dishes in my household.

Mexican Tabouli- add lemon and lime juice, red onions, lots of cilantro, tomatoes, peppers (green and/or red), strained whole black beans, cukes and/or celery, jicama, hot chilies, salt and black pepper. Avocado on each serving (but don't put it in the salad itself as if any is left over, the avocado won't keep.) I usually add shrimp or a white fish for protein.

Italian Tabouli- lemon, tomatoes, red onions, mozerella in small chunks (the stuff that comes in water not the stuff wrapped in plastic), basil, walnuts and/or pine nuts, shrimp, fennel.

Asian Tabouli- lime, ginger, shallots, spring onions, pea pods, sprouts, cilantro, toasted almonds (peanuts would be more authentic, but I don't usually have them around and I like almonds), hot peppers, sesame seeds, sliced and seared ahi layed over the top.

I always make Tabouli the meal, mixing it with lettuce (the kind usually depends on the dish, but a good romaine and mixed greens is always safe). I don't add any other dressings, except perhaps a tad bit more olive oil if needed to bring it all together. Anything else would detract from the dish.

So, yeah...Tabouli is really versatile. It's cheap and even cheaper if you leave out the feesh. It's quick and easy to make...neither stage takes much time or effort at all and there aren't any tricks or esoteric cooking skills required. It's great for summer. I make up a big batch then add the different things for variety on different nights . I have yet to get tired of it. It's a meal in itself, needing nothing more than a glass of wine to make life good.

Quinoa picture is from here. There is also a really nice writeup on the grain worth reading.


Anonymous said...

I love quinoa! Thank you for the great ideas! xoxo

Gillette said...

You bet, Katrina...isn't it the best?