Many of us feel that each new year brings an opportunity to revamp our indulgent holiday lives into something a bit healthier. We resolve to exercise more and eat healthier. Josh and I are no exception. We're definitely not extremists, but a nice, clean start of each year sure helps balance out the craziness that comes at the end of the year. One day, Josh came home with some packaged tabouli from the grocery store. I love Mediterranean food, but I was never a huge fan of parsley so tabouli never interested me. It's what restaurants use as a garnish! No one ever really eats it, right? Plus, it looks eerily similar to cilantro and, for those of you who know me, that's the one herb I believe the world could do without. Okay, not really. Not the whole world because I know people who really love cilantro, Josh being one of them, but if it could be in MY world as little as possible, that would be great, thanks... Moving on, Josh convinced me to try it and, turns out, I really like it! It is so simple and fresh and I love how lemony it is! After buying it few more times at the grocery store, I thought, "This has to be so easy to make." I looked at the ingredients list: parsley, onion, tomato, couscous, lemon juice, olive oil, and various spices. That "various spices" was a little daunting, but hey, it's essentially only 6 ingredients. Easy as pie! For a healthy alternative, I decided to use quinoa instead of couscous.
Quinoa is technically a seed that is used like a grain. It has a high protein content and is also a complete protein, which means it contains all the amino acids that your body needs to function. Oh, and it's also gluten-free. Bam!
For the recipe: Since this really is just a salad, I knew I could look at a couple of different recipes and piece together the things I liked. I saw a couple recipes that also included fresh mint, cucumbers, and other things, but I wanted to keep it as simple as possible for the first round (plus, deep down, I'm pretty lazy; fewer ingredients=less work). There's always next time.
Here's what I used:
- 3/4 bunch parsley, washed and chopped (I chose curly rather than flat leaf because the flavor is milder)
- 1 pint of grape tomatoes, chopped
- half a red onion, chopped
- juice of 2 lemons
- 1/2 cup quinoa (I used white quinoa, but any color will do)
- approx. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- salt to taste
I followed the advice of theKitchn to cook up the quinoa. To crudely sum it up, wash the quinoa using a fine mesh strainer. Place in a saucepan with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until excess water is evaporated and quinoa is slightly toasted. Add liquid of choice (water, chicken broth, etc.) in a 1:2 ratio, one part quinoa to two parts water, so in this case 1/2 cup quinoa to 1 cup water. I really wanted to toss in a crushed garlic clove, but somehow we were out of garlic?? Instead, I added about a tablespoon of the chopped onions and some salt to flavor the quinoa as it cooked. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to lowest setting and cook for 15 minutes. Take the pan off the heat, let stand for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. This yields 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa.
All you have to do in toss everything else together in a bowl, the parsley, tomatoes, onions, quinoa, rest of the olive oil, juice of 2 lemons, and salt to taste. Best to do it when the quinoa is still warm to really bring out all the flavors. The longer the ingredients sit together, the better the tabouli gets, so make a big batch!
I initially only used the juice of a lemon and a half (hence the solo lemon in the ingredients shot). Dishes like this only get better the longer it sits so I gave it a day and decided it still needed a bit more lemon juice, thus the other lemon half was added!