We grow a tabouli salad garden. Our small square-foot garden contains 4 early ripening tomato plants, 6 curly parsley, 2 flat-leaf parsley, about a hundred scallions and 4 large pots of spearmint. Some years we have success with cucumbers, though more often not. Each just-picked vegetable and herb with its vitality, crisp texture and rich flavor makes for the most flavorful and fragrant Tabouli Salad.
All systems go
We’ve been patiently waiting for our pale green tomatoes to become deep red and ripe. Two mornings ago our patience was richly rewarded.
I lovingly harvested and prepared each ingredient. Into my largest stainless steel bowl they went along with the cooked and cooled quinoa, diced avocado and sheep’s milk feta, freshly ground pepper and Celtic sea salt. With a golden spoonula (for the best color contrast ;-)) I tossed everything with freshly squeezed lemon juice, a tad of balsamic vinegar and our best extra virgin olive oil.
Oh my, oh my, perfection in a bowl. I had actually forgotten, and then quickly remembered, just how much I enjoy Tabouli and why I plant a tabouli salad garden.
My evolving recipe
A traditional Middle Eastern Tabouli Salad consists of bulgur (cracked wheat), tomatoes, finely chopped parsley, mint and onion dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. My own recipe has evolved over the years:
- High-protein and gluten-free quinoa with its light and slightly crunchy texture replaces the bulgur
- A small amount of balsamic vinegar softens the acidity of the fresh lemon juice
- Diced avocado, added at my husband’s suggestion, gives a most wonderful creamy contrast to the crispness of the other vegetables
- Slightly salty feta cheese brightens the salad in both color and taste
- Cucumber seems so natural you’ll wonder why it isn’t part of the traditional recipe
- The combination of both flat-leaf and curly parsley adds additional depth of flavor
- Finely chopping the parsley and the fresh mint in the food processor adds ease and practicality
For appearance, nutrition and taste I prefer tabouli salad more green than brown with lots of fresh parsley, mint and scallions. With lots of parsley it is imperative that it be very finely chopped. Don’t skimp on this step. Anything less than finely chopped causes the parsley to get caught in the throat. Enough said.
Before there were food processors I could understand why people made their tabouli heavy on the bulgur—a brown salad with only a hint of parsley. With the ease of finely chopping well-dried parsley in a food processor, I can’t imagine wanting Tabouli Salad any way other than green.
This recipe makes lots, though can easily be halved. It is also gluten-free—and vegan if you omit the feta cheese. For the very best flavor use the freshest herbs and vegetables you can find.
Yield: 12 cups
Prep time: 40 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
6 cups *cooked quinoa, chilled
9 cups fresh parsley, large stems removed and lightly packed (a mix of flat-leaf and curly parsley)
1 cup fresh spearmint leaves, lightly packed
2 cups diced tomatoes
2 cups cucumbers, quartered lengthwise, seeded and sliced ¼-inch thick
½ cup thinly sliced scallions (both green and white parts)
1 avocado, 1/3-inch dice
2 ounces crumbled feta or fresh goat cheese (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
6 twists freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Dry the parsley and mint leaves very well. Very finely chop them together by hand or in a food processor. Combine all the Tabouli Salad ingredients in a large bowl. Toss them with the dressing. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste.
*To cook quinoa, place 1½ cups rinsed quinoa into 3 cups of lightly salted water. Bring to a boil; cover the pan and lower the heat so that the water simmers. Cook 17 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the quinoa sit for five minutes in the covered pan. Fluff with a fork. Lay the quinoa out on a cookie sheet to cool thoroughly before adding it to the Tabouli Salad.