Tabbouleh is one of my all time favorite dishes. A seriously fresh tasting, savory salad chock full of anti-inflammatory herbs like parsley and mint, it’s a breeze to make. I love the hits of lemon and spice in it too. It’s the perfect dish to serve with a fish or chicken dinner or with a vegetarian dish, like my Moroccan Vegetable Stew. This salad, a riff on the classic tabbouleh recipe, uses quinoa instead of bulgur wheat, making it even better for you than the original. And bonus, it’s gluten free, vegan, and delicious. So, it’s definitely Ageless Diet™ approved!
Why quinoa instead of bulgur wheat? Because for many people grains, like bulgur wheat, with gluten in them are an allergen, which makes them inflammatory. Chronic low-grade inflammation, what occurs in our bodies and brains when we consume foods that are allergens, is the leading cause in disease and in premature aging. Quinoa is also one of those super foods everyone wants to eat more of, but most of us aren’t quite sure how to make it taste good. Problem solved with this recipe!
Quinoa, technically a seed, not a grain, goes back several thousand years, when the Incas of Peru realized it made for an energizing meal. Perfect for non-meat eaters, quinoa is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. Quinoa also has twice as much fiber as other grains/seeds. Fiber is one of those necessary things we all need more of. The higher a food’s fiber content, the lower it tends to be in available calories. Obviously, not all carbohydrates are created equal. Sugar and starch – from foods that are processed and full of white (made from dwarf wheat) flour – are carbohydrates. So is fiber. Foods like quinoa are full of fiber. While, you can easily digest and use calories from sugar and starch, you can’t break down fiber, so you don’t get appreciable numbers of calories from eating the fiber.
You need about 30-50 grams of fiber a day. Fiber can help prevent obesity and all the chronic disease of aging. Making high-fiber foods ageless foods. So, start eating more fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds like flax and quinoa, whole grains… fiber does a body good. The great myth promoted by diets like Paleo and Atkins is that we need to consume mostly protein to be lean and healthy; fiber is left behind in the discussion of what keeps you thin. We actually need no more than 20 percent of the daily calories in our diet to be protein. In fact, it’s recommended that 10-15 percent of our daily calories come from protein (about 56 grams for men and 46 for women). If you weigh around 130 pounds, you need about 48 grams of protein. And it’s much better for you if most of that protein is plant-based, which makes quinoa the perfect food. Plant based proteins have no saturated fat, and they are often lower in calories. Quinoa is high in fiber, and it’s a complete protein. One cup of quinoa is about 8 grams of protein, and about 10 grams of fiber per cup. Which is great news because most of us need to eat more fiber. Fiber keeps us regular and helps to prevent heart disease by reducing high blood pressure and diabetes. Fiber lowers cholesterol and glucose levels.
Quinoa is also high in iron, vitamin B2, lysine, and magnesium.
But, never mind the amazing health benefits of this salad, and that it’s part of an Ageless Diet™, all you’re going to care about, once you take that first bite, is that it’s delicious. Your dinner guests will thank you!
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt salt plus more
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (for a little kick, optional)
- Juice from 1 lemon + 1 tablespoon of lemon zest
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large English hothouse cucumber or cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or 4 organic Roma tomatoes, finely diced
- 1 cup chopped organic flat-leaf Italian parsley (about half a bunch of parsley)
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced
Finely dice tomatoes or halve the cherry tomatoes, put in a bowl with a little sea salt and cracked pepper, gently sir. Allow to sit for the 15 minutes it takes the quinoa to cook.
Bring quinoa, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until quinoa is tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for about 5 minutes.
Whisk lemon juice and garlic in a big bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
Add cumin, cayenne, lemon zest, cucumber, tomatoes, herbs, and scallions to the bowl with the dressing, toss to coat. Add the quinoa to the mixture and gently combine quinoa until every component of the salad is dressed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
About the Author: Tania Van Pelt is the creator of Happiness Series. She is a writer and content creator, working in film, tv, and online. She wrote the popular lifestyle book "Ageless Diet," published in late 2015. And she is currently working on her next book. She also developed a sitcom pilot set in the restaurant business called "Employees Only TV" and is developing another web series comedy about Denver.