May 6, 2010

Quinoa Tabouleh, and other fun foods

Well this is a crazy name for a dish, isn't it?  Quinoa, pronounced, "keen-wa", is not your mainstream grain, but it's fast becoming popular.,  It is more of a seed, actually, and it has protein!  Tabouleh, pronounced, "ta-boo-lay", is a Middle-eastern salad using couscous that's heavy on parsley.  Surely you've heard of couscous, that tiny, grain sized pasta?  With this recipe, because couscous is a pasta and therefore made with flour, which I am currently trying to avoid, this cute little grain quinoa is its replacement.  Say it with me, "Keen-wa Ta-boo-lay", lol!  You feel like you're speaking in tongues, don't you? 

I may never have encountered tablouleh without the help of my best friend.  And to be honest, I didn't like it.  Way before either of us was married with children and she was dating this crazy guy, or shall we say, crazy-much-older-guy, he introduced her to the delights of Middle-eastern cuisine at a little place in Milwaukee called the Shahrazad. 

The Shahrazad?  That's the kind of restaurant I would have quickly walked past back in the day.  But she insisted that I had to try this amazing food, so she drove us twenty miles from our suburban haven through "the hood" and into the city near the UW-Milwaukee campus.  It is one of those trendy hipster locale wannabes with a generous helping of poor college students.  It was the East side.  I felt out of my element, and couldn't imagine that the food could be good enough to traverse twenty miles.  But if I felt out of my element in the neighborhood, just wait until I walked into the restaurant. 

Oh yeah, it was all decked out Middle Eastern style, complete with stucco walls, ceiling murals with gold border paint, and hookahs scattered throughout, which, when I asked the owner what they were, was told that they were for making tea. Very funny.

Well, my dear friend did not even need a menu, and anyway, it wouldn't have done me much good because the words were really foreign.  She ordered the sampler platter, large enough for two, and ding ding ding!  We could split the bill.  Before the platter arrived we were brought a generous basketful of fresh, hot pitas. Fresh pitas!  I was starting to like this place a lot.  Then came the platter.  Oh that platter! Thirteen separate dishes. Soon I was eagerly dipping my hot pitas into weird concoctions like hummus and baba ghanoush, and stuffing them with falafel and yogurt sauce like an old pro.  Those pitas were never-ending too! 

Needless to say the Shahrazad became a haunt of ours over the years whenever we both found ourselves in town at the same time, even though the service left something to be desired.  I even opted to have an anniversary dinner over a fancy restaurant. But I was a little disappointed when on another occasion I tried the tabouleh salad.  It was too much parsley in my opinion, and that day it seemed the salad had been sitting around for a while.  I've tried it maybe one other time since, and it was even worse at that location.  But recently I have been delving into this cookbook by Susan O'Brien, as I am actively trying to reduce my sugar and gluten intake.  I was surprised to find a bevvy of non-dessert recipes in there, including some great salads.

I don't know about you but, as much as I love salads I get bored with them if I make them too often.  Because I'm boring and can't think of new things to add to them.  But all that's changing now.  When I saw this Quinoa Tabouleh recipe and a few others, salad was redefined.  I happened to have all the ingredients but one on hand, which is unusual.  I don't usually have fresh parsley, lemons, and quinoa hanging around at the same time.  I mean, until recently parsley was that little green thing on my plate at the restaurant that I would eat just to gross out my brother when we were growing up.

I was pleasantly surprised by how good this was.  The quinoa was a great substitute for the couscous.  I am planning to make this often, and it's fantastic with added garbanzo beans to it to make it a complete meal, and I prefer it light on the tabouleh, but you can decide to add more than what I've listed.  (Don't tell anyone) I ate the whole salad for lunch.  It was so fresh and flavorful, and you can easily use your spoon as a shovel.  You will find out over time how I like to shovel things into my mouth. 

Adapted from "Gluten-free, Sugar-free Cooking" by Susan O'Brien

Serves 4

Quinoa Tabouleh Salad

1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup homemade broth or water
1/2 cup carrots, grated
1 stalk celery, chopped small
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 cup diced cucumber
1 cup parsley, chopped
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained (optional), or two cups home cooked garbanzo beans

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/8 cup olive oil
2 tbl. minced garlic
2 tbl. chopped fresh mint (or 2 tsp. dried)--optional
salt and pepper, to taste

Mix dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.  Rinse quinoa well and place in a saucepan.  Add the broth or water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for about 12 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed.  Turn off heat and allow to cool.

Combine carrots, celery, tomatoes, and cucumber, and beans, if using, in a large salad bowl.  Add quinoa and parsley.  Pour the dressing over the ingredients and toss well.  Season with salt and pepper.

No comments:

Post a Comment