Growing up in a Greek family, I was introduced to Mediterranean flavors at a young age. Salty cured olives, zesty lemons, fragrant olive oil, and tangy feta cheese have always been kitchen staples for me. I cherish memories of my Papouli (Grandpa) trying to gross out his grandkids by eating fish eyes or teasing me every Greek Easter that next time my dog Lexi would be roasting over the coals instead of the lamb we had each year. He even let me sneak sips of his murky, licorice flavored ouzo. Yes, my Papou was a very Greek troublemaker and I was his little princess.
Papou used to let me help him tend to his beautiful garden. We would wake up in the morning, share a grapefruit while standing over the kitchen sink, then head out to the backyard. He grew tomatoes, cucumbers, zuchinnis, figs, and all sorts of herbs. I am so thankful for the time we had together, especially for all that he taught me about the flavors of Greek food and Mediterranean cuisine in general.
When I moved to Los Angeles a few years back, my manager and soon to be friend was Lebanese. Maya had a big, boisterous family that reminded me of my own. We loved to exchange recipes because we both came from cultures with similar styles of cuisine. One day Maya took me to her favorite Lebanese restaurant in Los Angeles. The place was family owned, the daughters were all waiting tables, and the owner reminded me of my Yiayia (Grandma). At this lovely Lebanese restaurant, I tried traditional tabouleh for the first time and I was hooked!
Traditional tabouleh is a finely chopped salad of parsley, tomato, mint leaves, scallions, Bulgur (finely cracked wheat), lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Some recipes call for red onion as opposed to scallions, though I feel the scallions work best here. The first bite I took of tabouleh was an explosion of fresh flavors in my mouth. My palate was singing! I wanted to put this herb salad on everything!
Over the years, I have developed my own version of tabouleh merging my California experience with my Mediterranean roots. My version is more of a grain salad, specifically a quinoa tabouleh salad. I love to use quinoa as opposed to Bulgur because the quinoa makes a more substantial dish. This way the quinoa tabouleh salad can be eaten on its own, topped with a protein, or served as a side dish. I forego the tomatoes all together and add cilantro and cumin as a nod to the Mexican flavors I grew up around in Southern California.
This quinoa tabouleh salad is the perfect dish to bring to a BBQ, a beach bonfire, or for an easy, healthy bite any night of the week. I first made this tabouleh for a friend’s beach birthday party. I will never forget her mom telling me the flavors were dancing on her palate!
The Wine Pairing
If you are eating the quinoa tabouleh salad solo, I definitely recommend pairing with a crisp, aromatic white wine. Choose one that will allow the brightness of the herbs and lemon to shine. Albariño, Sauvignon Blanc, or a dry Pinot Gris will complement the tabouleh very well and enhance the freshness of the dish even further.
Will you make this quinoa tabouleh salad? If so, please snap a photo of your dish and tag me on Instagram (@palm.and.vine). Or leave a comment below and let me know how it turned out!
A California inspired take on a Lebanese classic. Adjust the quinoa to herb ratio as you like!
- 1 cup tri-color quinoa (dry)
- 3/4 cup finely chopped parsley
- 3/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
- 1/4 cup finely chopped mint leaves
- 1 bunch finely chopped scallions
- 1 to 2 juice of 1 lemon, additional as needed
- 1 to 2 juice of 1 lime, additional as needed
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp dried basil
- 1/8 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- salt and pepper to taste
Cook quinoa at a 2:1 ratio water to quinoa or to directions on package. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook approximately 10 minutes or until there is no water left in the pot. Turn off the heat and allow the quinoa to sit in the covered pot with the steam for a few minutes. Then remove the lid and fluff quinoa with a fork.
You may either make the quinoa ahead of time to allow quinoa to cool completely. You could also put the cooked quinoa in the refrigerator to cool while you are prepping the rest of the ingredients.
Finely chop all herbs and scallions.
Toss all ingredients together in a bowl.
Season with additional spices, lemon/lime juice or olive oil as needed. Try to achieve a balance of salt, fat, and acid.
Serve cold or at room temperature.
Wine Pairing: Sauvignon Blanc, unoaked Chardonnay, or Pinot Gris