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Fall is here and my garden has parsley in abundance. I was staring at it, struggling with how I’m going to use it all before the cold weather hits. It’s great to add on top of any rice dish, meats, sandwiches, etc. but that just won’t cut it. Thankfully, there are ways to make a meal out of it. Gritty, fresh and invigorating, this tabbouleh with quinoa is an amazing side for mains like grilled meat, chickpeas, and pizzas or pitas.
For this dish it is imperative you start with curly parsley. It has a very distinct fluffy look, as opposed to the leafy Italian parsley. Along with the quinoa, the curly parsley gives the salad its definitive texture. The chewy, almost grainy feeling of these two ingredients contrast very nicely with the soft tomatoes and crisp onion.
I like to skin the tomatoes. You taste a lot more of the juices of the tomato that way, and helps to balance the overall experience of eating the salad. Finally, I’m adding quinoa for a bit of texture and solidity. It may not be the most accurate or traditional dish, but I think it’s a fairly delicious and healthy recreation.
The most authentic tabbouleh recipe?
Speaking of tradition, I want to talk about authenticity for a minute. What do you think of when you hear “authentic” cuisine? Is it the best tasting? The most accurate recipe to the way people used to do it in the past? The best and most widely renowned by chefs from that culture?
The truth is defining authenticity is tricky. I certainly have no monopoly on the authenticity of this recipe, or any that I publish on my website.
If you asked me, I would tell you that “authentic” means stripped of pretense. No marketing. No appropriation. No BS. The way my grandmother would make the dish. Not because it’s the old way. It’s just because it hasn’t been changed over time to fit the agenda of another person or group to that doesn’t understand the roots of the dish. It’s the way people actually fed themselves and experienced food without having someone else tell them what to do or how to do it.
I associate tabbouleh with the Levant region, around Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine. There is a fairly large Lebanese community where I live in Canada and so I was exposed to the dish from a young age. I’ve done some reading on it and most recipes say to use bulgur, a tiny grain from cracked durum wheat which is common in the Middle East. Recipes usually say to use extra fine bulgur.
Tabbouleh with quinoa
The truth is, I can’t find any type of bulgur at a grocery store near me. So, the search for a Mediterranean specialty store which stocks it might be quite long. If you want to do that, power to you.
Quinoa is the closest substitute I could think of between all the ingredients in my pantry (which also has a lot of wheat flour, barley, and rice). I know I’ve changed the recipe but I stand by it. Not because I think it’s the most authentic, but because it’s a happy medium of flavour, health, and texture. It’s a similar enough grain to do the job! If you’re using something else, avoid couscous, which is actually a kind of pasta, not a grain in itself.
I think it’s important to make a nod to the roots of a dish even if you’re not doing it the same way. The more we understand about the culture and ingredients that inform our food, the easier we can learn how to make changes that still fit the style and purpose of the dish. This is certainly as true with mixology as it is with cuisine. Food and drink are natural bridges between cultures.
Let me know what you think though. Check out the tabbouleh with quinoa recipe right here!
Fresh Tabbouleh with Quinoa
- Pot to boil water
- Cutting board and knives
- Strainer or colander for quinoa
- Large bowl for mixing
- 4 cups curly parsley chopped
- 5 roma tomatoes skinned (optional but recommended)
- 1/2 large red onion
- 1/4 cup mint leaves
- 1/2 cup quinoa more for a grainier, more dense salad
- 1/2 lemon juiced
- 1 1/2 tbsp (20-25 ml) olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Prepare parsley and mint ahead of time by washing and allowing them to dry.
- Cook quinoa in a pot of water on low boil for 15 minutes (or follow instructions on packaging if applicable). Strain after cooking.
- (Optional but recommended). Skin tomatoes. Boil a bit water and add it to a bowl. Carefully slice 4 slits on the skin of the tomatoes, making sure only to cut the outside. Let them sit in the water for 2-3 minutes. The skin will be soft and elastic and should peel off with a little help from a knife.
- Chop veggies and squeeze fresh lemon juice. Place them all into a large bowl and mix thoroughly.
- Add quinoa, olive oil, mix again, then finish with salt and pepper as desired. Enjoy!
Thanks for stopping by! If you like this kind of article, why not check out some of my other food recipes as well?