There are so many wonderful vegetarian and vegan dishes that exist in Middle Eastern cooking. In fact, if I plan on going out for a meal with my son, a safe bet would be a restaurant that serves mainly Middle Eastern food. Dishes like falafel, hummus, baba ghanoush, fattoush salad, etc. are all wonderful options packed full of the good stuff. Middle Eastern families do not eat meat 3 meals a day, it isn’t as easily available and in excess like it is here in North America, and so they have lots of wonderful cuisine that is fantastic for vegetarians and vegans alike. You do have to be inquisitive when eating at Middle Eastern inspired restaurants here that you check to see if they have used mayonnaise in their baba ghanoush or other creamy dressings or dips. These recipes are traditionally vegan, but I have encountered a few restaurants that do add dairy or egg. My absolute favorite Middle Eastern dish is Tabbouleh. It is without a doubt one of the most refreshing and energy boosting salads I can even think of. Parsley has some pretty miraculous characteristics nutritionally, so digging into a bowl of it is always appealing to me on many different levels.
This recipe actually belongs to my beautiful friend Danielle. She also happens to be the very talented photographer behind all of my creations. Her father is from Beirut, and so she is a master of Middle Eastern cuisine. A few weeks ago we switched it up and shot some of my inventions in her kitchen. I was fortunate enough to have come the day after she had thrown a big dinner party and there was an abundance of left over tabbouleh in her fridge which I immediately remedied by gobbling up the lot. Danielle adds cooked quinoa into her tabbouleh for protein and a nice nutty flavor. It was divine. I had been looking for an excuse to talk about parsley, and so I decided I would showcase this incredibly healthy and scrumptious dish.
On a nutritional level, parsley is a bit like magic. It is a fantastic source of antioxidants, just like most greens. It also boasts exceptional levels of vitamin k as well as high levels of vitamin c, vitamin a and folic acid. It is fantastic as an anti-inflammatory, so for anyone suffering from arthritis, psoriasis, and other related ailments it works wonders. Parsley contains powerful essential oils. One of these oils goes by the name of myristicin. This oil has been shown to inhibit the growth of tumors in various animal studies, specifically tumors found in the lungs. Oils like myristicin and others similar to it are able to promote a change in certain enzymes that then enable them to neutralize carcinogens in the body (like the benzopyrenes that exist in cigarette smoke or charcoal grill smoke).
So, the next time you are eating out and you see a lonely sprig of parsley sitting on your plate as an over qualified piece of garnish, eat it! It’s likely the most nutritious thing on your plate!
2 big bunches of parsley (finely chopped)
3 small tomatoes or 2 large tomatoes (diced)
2 small onions (finely chopped)
juice of 3 lemons
3-4 tbsp of olive oil
3 cups of cooked quinoa
pinch of coarse salt
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 cup of uncooked quinoa. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Stir occasionally. Once all of the water is gone and the quinoa has expanded and has a light and fluffy texture, set aside. Cooking time is around 10-15 minutes.
Finely chop both bunches of parsley. Dice the tomatoes. Finely chop the onions. Juice the lemons.
Add the chopped parsley, tomatoes, onions and cooked quinoa to a large bowl. Pour in the lemon juice and olive oil; add a dash of salt (or to taste). Stir thoroughly and serve.
This salad tastes even better the day after once the lemon and onion flavors have had the time to really settle into the quinoa and parsley, so this is definitely something you can make ahead!
Yields 8 large servings.