Tabbouleh Quinoa Salad

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I was the person who bought all of the boxes of “make-it-yourself” Mediterranean food from the local supermarket last month. I’m sorry. It’s just too tempting, you know? Supermarkets put the couscous or the EasyMac or the ramen on sale for a dollar a box, and the college students and recent post-grads gobble it up like Pac Man running into those ghosts. However, as you can see from the picture of my pantry below, I really needed to think outside of the box.

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Luckily, I happen to live less than a block away from the best Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food I’ve ever eaten. This is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, I have easy access to endless shawarma, wraps with falafel, and plates piled high with hummus. Unfortunately, it’s gotten to the point where the servers all know my name and my order, down to every single side dish.

Garlic ‘N Lemons, located on the Harvard Avenue strip of delicious restaurants in Allston, Massachusetts, is known for its fast, authentic-tasting, Middle-Eastern comfort food, offering an array of classic options including Greek salad, pita wraps, and meat carved straight out of the rotisserie oven. I’m not sure how much is too much garlic for a human being to consume, but I always top off my plate or wrap with the restaurant’s signature Garlic sauce, as well as the “Magic” sauce (don’t be fooled, it’s even more garlicky goodness), always resulting in an inevitable food coma. But even with all of these delights, there’s one thing that always brings me back to Garlic ‘N Lemons – their tabbouleh salad. The parsley is perfectly chopped, the tomatoes evenly minced, and it’s never too salty, oily, or citric.

Wanting to escape the sad, lonely boxes of forlorn couscous on my shelves, and getting a bit tired of always eating out, I decided to try making my own vibrant tabbouleh, just in time for spring, inspired by the savory salad offered at Garlic ‘N Lemons. Most recipes call for bulgur wheat, but I experimented successfully with quinoa instead, which is even healthier. {Honestly, I also happened to buy about 10 boxes of quinoa on sale at the store}.

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Tabbouleh Salad With Quinoa

Ingredients
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
1/2 teaspoon salt
A sprinkling of black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (I highly recommend squeezing fresh lemons)
1-2 garlic cloves, minced/pressed
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large cucumber, diced well
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, diced
2/3 cup finely-chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup finely-chopped mint leaves

Instructions
Bring quinoa, salt, and approximately 1 and 1/3 cups water to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until quinoa is soft, after approximately 8-10 minutes. Remove the pot from heat and let stand, covered, for about 5 minutes. Fluff quinoa with a fork. (Think of the same exact process for preparing couscous or rice pilaf).

Combine the lemon juice (freshly-squeezed, preferably) with the minced garlic in a separate bowl. Gradually whip in the olive oil, and sprinklings of salt and black pepper to taste. While you are preparing this mixture, let the quinoa cool in a large separate bowl or casserole dish.

When the quinoa is ready, mix in 1/4 cup dressing (save the rest for later, and feel free to use it the next day – keep chilled – to prepare more tabbouleh salad).

Add the diced cucumber, tomatoes, chopped parsley and mint to the bowl of quinoa – toss well to completely combine. Use additional dressing as needed.

Post, Photos, and Recipe by Stephanie Cohen.