- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Try today’s recipe for a variation on tabbouleh, the traditional Mediterranean green-and-grain salad.

This recipe is different as well as delicious, with the addition of a few nontraditional spices — and it’s a great way to slip some of that nutritious wonder-grain, quinoa, into your diet.

Use extra-virgin olive oil — the kind you might keep on hand for extra-special finishing touches, rather than for daily cooking.

Get everything else ready while the grains cook (quinoa) and soak (couscous).

For a real time-saver, mince the parsley, mint and scallions together in a food processor.

Couscous-quinoa tabbouleh keeps well, tightly covered and refrigerated, for up to 5 days.

It goes well on a bed of greens, with any cold, garlic-laced eggplant salad or dip as a perfect first course, or as main course with some good lentil soup and toasted pita.

Couscous-quinoa tabbouleh

The preparation time is 30 minutes, plus time to cool and then to chill (15 minutes of work).

1 cup uncooked quinoa

1 cup uncooked instant couscous

3/4 cup boiling water

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

2 cups (packed) minced fresh parsley (flat or curly-leaf)

1 cup minced fresh mint

3 to 4 scallions, finely minced

1 cup minced red onion (about 1 small onion)

1 or 2 small (6-inch) cucumbers, peeled, seeded if necessary, and diced

1 heaping teaspoon minced garlic

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt (possibly more to taste)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 to 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 or more tablespoons fresh lemon juice (to taste

OPTIONAL GARNISHES:

Tiny cherry tomatoes, for garnish (cut in half if not really tiny)

A few toasted walnuts, minced

Toasted pita bread

Place the quinoa in a strainer and rinse under cold running water. Transfer to a small saucepan, add 11/4 cups water, and bring to a boil. Cover, turn the heat way down, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, and fluff thoroughly with a fork to let heat escape. Set aside. (Continue to fluff the quinoa from time to time as you prepare the other ingredients, so the grains stay dry and separate.)

Place the couscous in a medium-large bowl, and add the boiling water. Cover with a plate and let stand for 10 minutes. Remove the plate, and fluff with a fork as you did with the quinoa. Then add the quinoa to the couscous, and fluff mightily. (It’s very important to the texture of this dish that the grains be separate and “tender-dry.” They will borrow moisture from the other ingredients, and you don’t want the salad to turn to mush.)

Meanwhile, lightly toast the seeds in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat until they are fragrant. Hover and stir often, so they don’t burn. Transfer to an electric spice grinder or a mortar and pestle. Grind to a powder, and add this to the cooked grains. Set the bowl aside until the grains have cooled at least to room temperature.

When the grains have cooled, use a fork to stir in all the remaining ingredients except the optional garnishes. Cover tightly and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Serve cold, topped with cherry tomatoes and minced walnuts, if desired, and with some toasted pita bread on the side, if desired. Makes 6 to 8 servings, depending on what goes with it.

Mollie Katzen

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