Tabouli would have to be my favourite salad of all time. As my Lebanese friend (who taught me how to make this) always humorously reminds me as we chow down with love, “Yeah, I’ve told you. We Lebs really know our food”. It always makes me laugh. I met my friend Christine when we were both working at a café in Brunswick Street in Melbourne many years ago. Her grandmother is the well known Lebanese Chef, Abla, made famous by her inspired Lebanese restaurant Abla’s in Carlton. My friends and I often make pigs of ourselves, snouting in her trough of Lebanese magic.
Christine taught me the Lebanese version of this popular salad, which is a weekly staple in my diet. I then modified it to make it a gluten free tabouli using quinoa. This gluten free tabouli is a fantastic Summer salad that can be enjoyed all year round. Tabbouleh was traditionally a Mediterranean mountain dish. It is commonly served in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Cyprus, and all over the Middle East as a popular daily accompaniment in various incantations. In Australia, because of our huge Lebanese and Middle Eastern population, tabouli is found absolutely everywhere. I must admit, that I only like the traditional Lebanese version using flat leaf parsley instead of its curly counterpart.
I don’t know about you, but I have no room on my plate for the curly parsley. Even as a garnish. I think it is ugly, bitter, and just doesn’t cut the mustard against it’s Italian sister. After all, it was the ancient Romans who first discovered we could eat it! They were onto something pretty incredible, and have followed their lead, just as we have with so many other things. Parsley is the world’s most popular herb. But parsley often gets overlooked as a leading lady, due to its reputation for extra roles as “Miss Table Garnish” or “Pretty Handbag Accessory Garnish”.
Parsley has a delicious vibrant colour, versatile taste, and has wonderful healing properties. The Italian flat leaf parsley is more fragrant and less bitter than its curly counterpart, so I just cannot recommend using anything else, or I feel like I would be short changing us all. Parsley is not only colourful and versatile, but it is remarkably low in calories. Don’t be fooled by the size of those leaves though. Parsley is loaded with antioxidant power that is known to neutralize all kinds of carcinogens. It is great for bladder health! Fresh parsley juice is fantastic for urinary tract infections. It is also really effective at relieving tummy upsets, and is great as a natural breath freshener.
Those Greeks and Romans were onto that too! It just reminds me again how over 2,000 years have passed and modern medicine still pales in comparison to some of these gifts from nature. Why look any further than whole fruits and vegetables to maintain good health? Parsley is also a good source of Vitamin A and C, with antioxidant flavanoids great for fighting free radicals; and helps with healthy skin, hair and eyes. It is a good source of Folic Acid for cardiovascular health; and a source of iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fibre.
Tabouli is a delicious easy opportunity to give parsley her much deserved leading role, and get a mega dose that will see you lining up for a return performance. I keep harping on about the Lebanese version and here is why. So many cafes and restaurants make a version of tabouli made with limp curly parsley, that is has an unbalanced ratio of cracked wheat to parsley. It is like a cracked wheat salad, leaving our beloved parsley in a supporting role. I prefer recipes where the Italian parsley is left to shine, enhanced by the other ingredients. Now traditional versions use tomatoes. I don’t tend to use tomatoes very much as I don’t eat nightshades very often -- a habit from my Macrobiotic days that is hard to break. If you don’t have a problem with nightshades, include the tomatoes, but be sure to scoop out the flesh to prevent your quinoa tabouli from becoming too slushy. The tomatoes are great for colour, and add a bit of an acid hit, which is refreshing on a hot Summer’s day.
Traditionally, tabouli contains bulgur wheat. But in the gluten free world it is great to use quinoa, which is a fantastic substitute that I think tastes better. I have put the lemon juice and olive oil quantities as guides only. I like my quinoa tabouli really lemony. Lemons are just so alkalizing and cleansing for your digestive tract.
Just a tip: the average lemon contains about 3 Tablespoons of juice. To maximize the juicing potential: always juice a lemon at room temperature. But store them in the fridge, as they are susceptible to mould. Just keep tossing, and adding the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt to taste, in order to get your perfect blend. I also like to add in the chopped flesh of 1 lemon for an added zing. But this is optional.
Christine always maintained that allspice was the key ingredient, and I would agree. But just a pinch or two is enough to make this parsley shine.
If you have never had gluten free quinoa tabouli – you are in for a treat! If you are looking for allergy free recipes this quick easy recipe is a winner.