Tabouli with Broccoli and Quinoa!
This week I bring you a healthy tabouli recipe as an alternative to the traditional Middle Eastern tabouli!
When I lived in places other than Minneapolis, aside from the great city of Toronto, I would often miss the thriving multicultural aspect of my home town. While many places in the United States and Canada enjoy a burgeoning multicultural food scene, buoyed by vibrant and diverse populations, other places are not so lucky.
To be certain they have their own unique cultural elements that I am glad I had the opportunity to see and live these, first hand. But missing family and the comparatively enlightened city of Minneapolis, I was delighted to return home.
The variety of options and many opportunities to widen my palate and experience multiculturalism right in my hometown is a blessing and underscores the beauty of the melting pot concept. I’m certain Anthony Bourdain has waxed on this subject many times, so I will “table” that and move on to the recipe itself! Ok, yes, that pun was intended. Sorry – not sorry, Tony!
Tabouli (or Tabbouleh) is vegetarian salad made mostly of finely chopped parsley, with tomatoes, mind, onion, soaked bulgur, and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Sometimes you will find it with garlic or lettuce as well, and sometimes couscous is substituted for bulgur.
I am really excited to be doing this recipe, especially given the worldwide reputation and popularity of tabouli. My healthy version substitutes some of the normal ingredients for things easier on the calories. Although, it must be said, tabouli is not, inherently, a high calorie dish.
History & More:
This dish has been popular across the Middle East from, at least, the middle ages. As edible herbs have formed an elemental part of the Arab diet since that time, dishes like Tabouli capitalize on some of the best known, local resources to make an every-day salad. For instance, some regions are particular suited to growing bulgur wheat, and so it finds its way in to many dishes.
What’s a Meze?
Often Tabouli is served as part of a meze (or mezze). A meze is, generally, a selection of small dishes served at the beginning of a multi-course meal. It is usually accompanied by alcoholic drinks, where permitted. The meze has retained popularity in not just the Middle East but also is a standard in the Near East, to Central Asia, the Caucuses to the Balkans and Turkey to Macedonia and beyond.
Regionally, the dishes served in the meze are as varied as their respective regions. Here are a few examples, courtesy of wikipedia:
Mutabbal/Babaghanoush – eggplant mashed and mixed with seasonings.
Hummus – a dip or spread made from cooked, mashed chickpeas
Hummus with meat (hummus bil-lahm)
Tashi – Dip made from tahini, garlic, salt and lemon juice with chopped parsley garnish.
Halloumi cheese, usually sliced and grilled or fried.
Souvlaki – Bite sized meat cubes (lamb is very common), grilled on a skewer over charcoal.
Stifado – Slow cooked beef stew with lots of onions, garlic, tomatoes, cinnamon, pepper and vinegar.
Afelia – Diced pork marinated in wine with coriander seed, then stewed.
Lountza – Smoked pork loin slice, usually grilled.
Dolma Vegetables like peppers, eggplants or courgettes stuffed with rice, chopped mint, lemon juice, pepper, minced meat.
Yogurt (Mast-o-Khiar in Iran)
Tzatziki – Dip made from plain yogurt, chopped cucumber with finely chopped garlic and mint leaf.
Labneh – strained yogurt which tastes similar to cream or sour cream only more tart.
Shanklish – cow’s milk or sheep’s milk cheeses
Muhammara – a hot pepper dip with ground walnuts, breadcrumbs, garlic, salt, lemon juice, and olive oil
Pastrami – seasoned, air-dried cured beef meat
Fattoush – salad made from several garden vegetables and toasted or fried pieces of pita bread.
Arugula (known also as rocket) salad
What would you choose to serve??!
So you can see, it would be fairly easy to assemble a meze for a party or big family dinner, and serve a select series of favorites from across the globe. I think, were it my choice, I would like make the meze larger, with more variety, and make that the entire meal.
If I were to serve tabouli, I could easily accompany that with some hummus and tashi, dolma in bell peppers, soulvlaki, lountza, sarma, tzatziki, olives, muhammara, fattoush and a selection of cheeses and pita bread or crackers. Voila – a feast fit for a sheik! To be sure, I would also find a way to serve dates there as well.
Quinoa, ½ cup
Broccoli, chopped finely, 2 cups
Fresh parsley, chopped, ½ cup
Chickpeas (Garbanzos), cooked and drained, 1 can (14oz)
1 Cucumber, medium size, seeded and chopped.
2 Roma tomatoes, finely diced.
Green Onions (2-4, depends on size and in your taste. For some of you, it will be Zero!)
Olive Oil, 2 tablespoons
Fresh lemon juice, 2-3 tablespoons
- In a small pot, put ¾ cup of water and bring to a boil.
- Add Quinoa, return to a boil, then cover tightly, turning the heat down to low. Cook on low for 15 minutes.
- Chop broccoli florets into pieces the size of rice. You can use a food chopper, which is a time-saver. To make this recipe today, I chopped it by hand using a Wusthof chef knife and employed a fan-chop technique.
- When the quinoa is done, remove from heat and quickly stir in the broccoli and let stand for 1 minute, covered.
- After a minute, transfer the combination to a large bowl. Make sure the bowl is big enough to accommodate the other ingredients. Let the mix cool to room temperature.
Prepping other ingredients:
- Chop the green onion into relatively fine pieces. This is an emphasis ingredient so it depends on how much onion texture and flavor you want in the whole mix.
- Carefully dice the roma tomatoes into small pieces. To be clear, I don’t chop these – I slice them carefully with a sharp chef’s knife or a serrated tomato knife. Be kind to the romas and keep them as intact as possible as you reduce them to small diced pieces.
- The parsley gets chopped roughly …this is entirely up to your taste. Many traditional taboulis leave quite a bit of leaf intact and don’t really reduce them too much. I tend to chop them up just a bit finer. I handle them much as I did the broccoli, just not quite as fine.
- The cucumber I will slice along the long axis, in equal halves then use a spoon to seed the center. Use a spoon as illustrated to seed the cucumber. Then slice the halved cucumber relatively finely and move to a fan chop to bring them down to acceptable chunks.
- Chickpeas: Drain and rinse them. Let them drip dry in a strainer.
6. Once at room temperature, combine the broccoli and quinoa mix with your chopped and diced ingredients. Toss them liberally.
7. Add the olive oil, lemon juice to the salad and toss to ensure a good, even coating.
8. Lastly, add salt and pepper to taste.
9. Chill for a couple hours, and serve!!
Bil hana wa ash-shifa! (Bon apetite in Arabic)
Pro tips and Notes:
The cucumber is a great little addition to this dish. I like to remove the seeds and refrain from adding that extra water to the tabouli. It’s much better when you limit the amount of extraneous liquid introduced to the mixture. It shouldn’t be a soggy salad …it should be a spring-fresh salad! The olive oil and lemon juice will provide all the moisture needed.
I view the cucumber as more of an accent flavor and want it to permeate the broccoli and quinoa rather than stand out as large chunks. It tends to bring a wonderful spring air to the flavor of the dish. Who doesn’t like the idea of a gin and tonic on a summer day with a big wedge of cucumber?! That’s one of the many flavors of summer to me!
I like romas better than regular or beefsteak tomatoes because they end up as mush if you try to chop or dice them finely. There is too much water in them for really fine work. The red of a relatively intact piece of tomato in the midst of the green field of tabouli is a beautiful thing. So be careful slicing these.
On Salt and Pepper
I use very little salt at all ..just the smallest sprinkle. With pepper, I like a bit more…I find the earthy tones of pepper blends well with all the spring-fresh flavors already present in the salad.
Ok, this may surprise many of you, but the calculator comes up with 190 calories per cup of this salad. Not bad, but maybe more than we may have guessed. That’s ok …anything this delicious and globally famous is worth it!
For more information on eating healthy, visit my article on diet fundamentals here.