COOKING ADVENTURE #60: Quinoa Tabouli
You know how I made a fuss a couple weeks ago about the herb marinaded steak and how I felt I was eating a garden when I had it? Well, I take it back. Fully. I’m pretty sure I just ate a greenhouse and it didn’t go down well, folks. Maybe this chick isn’t meant to be a vegetarian… or really eat very many green things at all. Though, I have to admit that I was a little sketched out by the idea of so many leafy green herbs tossed in not enough vegetables and practically a handful of quinoa. Problem is now that I also have a giant bowl full of the stuff that I have to eat. Proportions, proportions, proportions… If I’d known that recipe would make THIS much, I would have cut it down dramatically. Unfortunately the website where I found this recipe lists the serving size in about size 2 font in the top corner of the recipe box. Damn it. I’m craving meat now. Any kind. Just something to help digest all of the foliage I just wolfed down, expecting it to taste somehow spectacular. I’m even more sad that I went out of my way on a Grail-like quest to find parsley and mint in the snowy climes of a wintry Midcoast Maine for this and now have a bunch of each left over… with nothing to use them for. Once again, all I can think of to say is damn it.
I’d heard the name “Tabouli” thrown around before for several years by some of my ultra-health conscious often vegan friends, though I’d never stopped to ask what it was. Last week while browsing Pinterest, I discovered a recipe that someone had come up with for a Quinoa Tabouli, substituting the bulgar wheat for quinoa. Up until this point, I’d been on a trend of eating rather rich dishes and decided that a healthy one was in order. I glanced at the list of ingredients, never stopping to actually pay attention to the proportions of those ingredients and figured it would all be fine.
I managed to find everything for the recipe rather easily with all but two issues. First was that my assumption that I could substitute dried parsley for fresh was very, very wrong. Second, apparently mint is the most impossible herb to find in February in Midcoast Maine. I searched high and low for a couple days and almost gave up. Thankfully, a co-worker suggested a local farmer’s market-type shop that I drove passed almost every day but had never stopped in. I stopped in there last night on my way home from work. Do you want to know how amazing it was? The parking lot smelled like fresh herbs. It was snowing and raining and was genuinely a nasty evening. And yet, the parking lot smelled good! Inside, it was like walking into a magical land of crisp organic fruits and vegetables, warm pastries, and aromatic spices. I know I’ll be visiting this place from now on. They also happened to have a pretty comprehensive stock of herbs, including mint and parsley. I bought those and a cranberry banana muffin (which still smelled like the store the next day!). When I got home, I set to work on assembling the tabouli.
The first thing I did was to cook up the quinoa, pronounced “keen-wa”. Every time I see the word, I think of a Jeopardy episode I witnessed where Trebek pronounced it “kwin-oh-a”. Oi. Just like rice, there is an exact ratio of water to the dried spherical little grains. Two cups of water for every one cup of quinoa. And since the recipe only called for one cup there was no math involved. I make it sound as if I’d have to solve algebra questions in order to make quinoa. My mind may have been a little on the slow side. Fighting off this demon cold has been sucking away more and more of my energy every day. I have the terrible feeling that when I go to bed tonight, I’ll be ultimately conquered by it. Anywho, where was I? Yes. Two cups of water, one cup of quinoa in a pot on the stove top brought to a boil and then lowered to a simmer to cook for ten minutes. While the quinoa cooked, I did the dishes… which I’d been putting off for a couple nights. I’d been to a party the night before and was NOT in the mood to do the dishes when I got home. You know that feeling. I don’t need to explain.
After the quinoa was cooked, I poured it into my glass measuring bowl to cool while I prepared the other ingredients. I cut up a couple tomatoes into cubes and added those to the quinoa. Then, I peeled a cucumber, diced that up and added that as well. I used to be big on cucumber. I honestly haven’t had it in years and apparently that was enough for me to suddenly feel unsure about it again. The recipe calls for one and a half cucumbers… I decided to just do one. At this point, I realized that my glass measuring bowl wasn’t going to be big enough for all of the ingredients. I had to dump everything into an even larger glass bowl for there to be room for the herbs.
I popped open my package of mint and began picking leaves. I should have washed them. Common sense was however not with me last night. I wasn’t thinking what foreign objects may have touched these leaves that I’d be putting in my mouth. Nope. I just threw caution to the wind, walking on the wild side with my mint. I cut it up with a tomato knife. Yes, I know, I should have used a bigger one… easier to dice… I was lazy and didn’t want to have to wash any more dishes. I tossed one cup of mint into the quinoa and mixed it in. Then, I did the same with the parsley, although I was even more lazy with that. At least I washed the parsley first before I took the knife to it and pulled the blade through it about half a dozen times. It wasn’t chopped up as finely as it should have been. What was worse was that I still had whole sprigs here and there. Some little part of me probably realized that this was going to taste very strange and that I wasn’t going to like it. Otherwise, I really would have tried. I think its safe to say that I went to enough trouble trying to hunt down the mint for this recipe.
Adding in the parsley, I took a final moment to stir everything together. Now, for the “dressing”. This “dressing” uses lemon juice, black pepper, course salt (which I don’t have), olive oil, and cumin. Cumin is a staple spice. It is used in so many ethnic dishes that it should be on my shelf. I assumed it was on my shelf. And of course, the brilliant realization that it wasn’t hit me square in the face as I went shoveling through all of the other useless spices that I own searching for it. I had to say “screw it” and continue on without it.
The green engulfed the quinoa completely. There were little dots of red from the tomatoes every here. But for the most part, it was as though I was staring into a vast jungle from which there was no escape. And because I’m terrible at having a back up plan, I had nothing else for dinner except this tabouli. Long story short, I’m not a vegetarian, nor will I ever be one. I could only get through so much of this before I got tired of it and wanted something else, anything with meat in it. Even the cat wasn’t interested in it. That’s saying something folks. That cat goes after me if I have green beans or toast, for Pete’s sake. But not this. I ended up staying up until midnight constructing part of a lasagna, just so that I wouldn’t have to have just the tabouli for lunch tomorrow. In conclusion, lesson learned today: make sure you have other food just in case the recipe purported to taste excellent doesn’t taste so wonderful.
**Now a moment to berate myself for having not done my proper research on tabouli before making it. It is most notably a meze dish in Arab cuisine, which is a small dish served before a much larger meal. It isn’t meant to be eaten in one huge helping like I had nor is it meant to be the only thing eaten at the meal. There in also lies a lesson that I should do my homework on any ethnic dishes I create before I go and make myself look like a fool. There.**
Next week, we’ll be going back to the sweet side of things for a while with this recipe for White Chocolate Raspberry Tiramisu. Just reading that makes me hardly able to resist the image of one in my mind. Hopefully, this tiramisu will come out better than last years! Stay tuned!