I call this salad tabbouleh, although most of the ingredients are not what you will find in a typical Middle Eastern tabbouleh salad. Tabbouleh traditionally consists of bulgur or couscous, chopped tomatoes, onions, and gads of fresh herbs, such as parsley, mint, and cilantro. While the grains are a main ingredient in tabbouleh, the salad is usually dominated by the fresh herbs, creating a hearty, satisfying, and decidedly fresh vegetarian meal or side dish.
This recipe switches out the bulgur for quinoa, which adds plenty of protein and a universally pleasing gluten-free option. In addition to handfuls of parsley and cilantro, I add a bunch of shredded tuscan kale – readily found in the markets during the winter. First I rub the kale with oil and lemon to slightly soften the sturdy leaves so that they yield more to the salad, while never becoming too soggy once folded into the salad.
For the vegetables I add poblano and jalapeño chile peppers for their heat and flavor in addition to red bell pepper for sweetness and color. This recipe can be prepared in advance and will remain fresh for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. If you prefer, add the chopped herbs slightly before serving to prevent wilting.
The key to making this salad is to taste, taste, taste as you build it. There should be a balance of citrus, fragrance, heat, and spice – as well as a balance of textures. Quinoa requires a good deal of seasoning for good flavor, so season the quinoa before adding it to the salad. You will also find that the flavors of the tabbouleh will meld the longer is sits in the refrigerator, so taste again before serving.
Winter Quinoa Kale Tabbouleh Salad
Serves 4 to 6
1 cup red quinoa
2 cups water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch tuscan kale (6 to 8 leaves)
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt
6 to 8 thin scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 large poblano chile pepper, stemmed and seeded, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Tabasco (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Italian parsley leaves, chopped
1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve under cold running water for 30 seconds, then drain. Combine the quinoa and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer until the quinoa is tender and releases its germ (the white tail), about 20 minutes. Drain the quinoa and transfer to a bowl. Add the oil, salt, cumin, and black pepper. Stir to combine, then cool to room temperature.
Remove the stems and tough ribs from the kale leaves. Roll up the leaves and thinly slice in chiffonade (narrow ribbons). Place the kale in a bowl and add the oil, lemon juice, and salt. Toss with your hands, while rubbing the oil and lemon into the leaves, for about 15 seconds.
Combine the quinoa, kale, peppers, and garlic in a large bowl. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the parsley and cilantro. Stir well to thoroughly coat the ingredients. Taste for seasoning. Fold in the parsley and cilantro and taste for seasoning again., If desired, add more oil or lemon juice if the tabbouleh is too dry. Cover and refrigerate the tabbouleh for at least one hour to allow the flavors to develop. Serve chilled or at room temperature.