Quinoa Salad Tabbouleh-Style
My quinoa addiction started during my holiday in South America, where I ordered this refreshing quinoa at almost every meal. I find the taste of quinoa itself to be quite mild, maybe slightly nutty, but I absolutely love the crunchy texture and fluffy consistency. Sometimes I feel like I am betraying my natural affinity for white rice… but the allure of quinoa is hard to ignore.
Quinoa originated in the Andean region of Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru and was once called “the gold of the Incas” as they recognized its stamina-increasing properties for their warriors. This protein-rich seed is considered a “super food” as it includes all nine essential amino acids. It also is gluten-free and a good source of magnesium, which is provides significant cardiovascular benefits. Commonly considered a grain, quinoa is actually a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard. In South America, it is often sold as a nutritious cereal and used in baked goods.
I like my quinoa freshly cooked and served chilled in a refreshing salad. I’m not a huge fan of fried quinoa. In Argentina, I had a beautifully simple and delicious salad of quinoa, shallots, cucumber, and fresh herbs like basil and parsley. It inspired me to replicate this salad at home and I have experimented with other herbs like cilantro and mint. Personally, I think this salad is so versatile and any fresh herbs will go well with the nutty quinoa. A solid combination I have found borrows culinary notes from the traditional Leventine Arab salad tabbouleh. Tabbouleh is typically made of bulgur (cereal food made of various wheat species), tomato, cucumber, parsley, mint and onion, seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice and salt. I basically replaced the bulgur with quinoa and dressed the salad with a lemon vinaigrette. I love tomatoes so it was a welcome addition, but it definitely changes the texture of the whole salad and makes it “juicy”. This is basically a Persian Salad Shirazi with quinoa.
To cook quinoa, the common rule of thumb is 2 parts liquid to 1 part quinoa ratio. However, I have been doing 1.25 parts liquid to 1 part quinoa as the Cooking Quinoa blog suggests because I do love more of a dry crunch! That blog is a great resource for everything quinoa.
Quinoa Salad Tabbouleh-Style
- 1 C uncooked quinoa
- 1 C cucumber, finely diced
- 1 large tomato, finely diced
- 1/2 C shallots, minced
- 1/4 C parsley, finely chopped
- 1/3 C mint, finely chopped
- Optional: pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 C lemon vinaigrette
If using unrinsed quinoa, soak it for at least 15 minutes to a hour and then drain. This will remove the natural bitter coating of the seed. Add 1 C quinoa and 1 1/4 water to a pot and bring to a bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Cook covered for 30 minutes until liquid is gone. Remove from heat and let sit for another 5 minutes. Fluff and set aside until completely cooled.
While the quinoa is cooking, finely chop up all the other ingredients: shallots, cucumber, tomato, mint, and parsley (or whatever herbs you wish). Also prepare the lemon vinaigrette (1 part lemon juice, 2 parts olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper).
Once the quinoa is completely cool, mix together with the rest of the salad ingredients. Drizzle with the dressing and season to taste. Optional: add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.