Sweeping blue skies, a rapturous sun, and melty-warm temperatures have reminded us in the past few days that Summer is not quite over yet here. As people fire up their grills, yank out the party plates and set up the lawn chairs this Labor Day weekend, we have just the dish to celebrate: a tasty tabbouleh salad with seasonal produce, garden herbs and properly sprouted quinoa. Combining classic techniques from Nourishing Traditions with local ingredients and a fresh modern flare, this simple cold salad is the perfect way to savor the end of Summer.
Tabbouleh (also spelled tabouli) is a traditional Levantine vegetarian dish that often includes tomatoes, parsley, mint, onion and bulgur or couscous. In opting for a gluten-free and higher protein variation, we have decided to sub-in a hearty helping of properly prepared quinoa in lieu of other grains. With a slightly crunchy texture and impressive nutrient profile, I find this alternative to be just the right thing to update the more customary tabbouleh versions.
In general, there is a great deal of misunderstanding floating around out there regarding quinoa. Not only does everyone seem to have their own variation on how to say it (it is pronounced keen-wah for the record), but there seems to be a lack of agreement on both the "healthiness" and "tastiness" level of this unique rice-like food. There are a couple of points I want to make about this gluten-free, "supergrain" before delving into the recipe.
How to Prepare Your Quinoa (the right way)
Quinoa is not actually a grain. Contrary to popular belief, these interesting little pellets do not technically belong next to rice and millet among the non-glutenous grains, because they aren't really grains at all. Quinoa is made up of the edible seeds of a plant belonging in the Chenopodium family (related to beet roots and spinach). Although some people on "low-carb" or "grain-free" diets avoid it for its high level of starchiness, quinoa can be a very healthy and energy-boosting addition to a real foods diet when prepared properly.
Dr. Weston Price was the first person to describe Quinoa in Western Literature. In his insightful book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Dr. Price noted that women in the Andes have valued quinoa as a source of nourishment for their families for thousands of years. It was particularly revered for its ability to stimulate breast milk. This tradition highlights the fact that it is a nutrient dense and energy-rich food. But not to worry-- men can certainly safely enjoy the benefits too!
Quinoa is high in protein and minerals. This unique seed boasts all nine essential amino acids, making it one of the only complete vegetable protein sources. Quinoa also contains a hearty helping of vitamins and minerals including riboflavin, magnesium, iron and manganese. We believe it is best enjoyed as part of a well-balanced whole foods diet, aside plenty of animal proteins and healthy fats.
Quinoa should be soaked and rinsed prior to eating. Like most seeds, quinoa is high in phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors which bind to important minerals and make digestion difficult. To promote nutrient bioavailability, quinoa should be soaked in an acidic medium for several hours (or overnight) prior to cooking. This is a simple process, and I will describe how to do it below.
2 cups quinoa
2 cups of filtered water, warm
2 tablespoons of whey, yogurt, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
In a large glass bowl, place quinoa and cover with two cups of filtered water. Measure out 2 tablespoons of the the cultured or acidic medium of choice. Cover and keep in a warm place for 8-24 hours.
Once complete, strain quinoa and rinse thoroughly to remove bitter sapponins coating the outside. Be sure to use a fine mesh, else the quinoa will sneak through!
To cook: transfer soaked quinoa to a medium pot and add about 2 cups more filtered water and about 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, then turn down to low heat and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until all of the water has been soaked up.
A Note About Corn
In the tabbouleh recipe I am about to share with you, we have also included some delightful, locally sourced corn. It is difficult to ignore the colorful ripened corn that waves from the stalks around here in August and early September. Here are a couple of pointers about sourcing it.
Opt for local, organic corn if available. Unfortunately a large percentage of the corn in the United States is genetically modified. Selecting organic corn will help to ensure that the seeds are authentic and have NOT been made Roundup ready.
If you have a sensitivity to corn you can leave it out. Many people, especially those with high rates of existing food intolerances or digestive distress, are also sensitive to corn. If that is you or someone in your family- simply omit it from the recipe!
Learn how to grill corn with the husk on. Grilling is one of the methods for cooking corn as described in Nourishing Traditions. We like to first peel back the husk, remove the silk and coat the kernels with a hearty dose of saturated fat (like grass-fed butter, pastured ghee or coconut oil) to prime it for the high heat cooking. Then, cook on the grill turning about every 5 minutes, for 15-20 minutes or until lightly charred. Steaming is another technique that can be helpful for preparing corn.
Now to put it all together...
Sprouted Red Quinoa Tabbouleh
1 cup red quinoa, soaked
1 1/2 cups cucumbers, diced
1 1/2 cups tomatoes, diced
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 ears of grilled or steamed corn, removed from the cob
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup unrefined olive oil (we love real Bariani Olive Oil)
Prepare quinoa and corn as specified above. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Coarsely dice cucumbers and tomatoes and remove corn from the cob. Place the vegetables in a large bowl. Dice parsley and toss together.
In a small dish, whisk together garlic and lemon juice. Slowly incorporate olive oil into the mixture. Season dressing to taste using unrefined salt and pepper.
Drizzle approximately one half of the dressing onto cooled quinoa. Add quinoa to vegetable mixture and toss to combine. Add remaining dressing and mix until evenly coated.
Serve immediately or chill in the refrigerator to store for later. Enjoy!