Culture has always been synonymous with food for me. Being from a large city with countless inhabitants whose people originate from far away places is as exciting as it is delicious. As a child, I loved to try new foods from different countries. It told me about what was important to that culture, which is usually family. It is also a great lesson in sustainability. A quick glance at any culture’s food teaches about what is local to the region and best for that environment.
Today, when I travel to new places, the first agenda item is identifying what foods are a staple in the culture and why. My recent trip to Panama lead me to seafood and tropical fruits, given that the country is surrounded by two large oceans. There is no better way to enjoy seafood than when it is freshly caught, sometimes minutes before it hits your plate! The food was also a history lesson, as Panama is home to the Panama Canal, meaning most every major country has traveled through, leaving its mark on the culinary scene. Indian-, Chinese-, French-, African-Panamanian food, anyone? It all exists and it’s all amazing!
In honor of my upcoming culinary exploration of parts of the Middle East and Mediterranean, I’m going to make a simple but delicious dish: tabbouleh. Traditionally a Levantine Arabic dish, tabbouleh has been adapted by many Middle Eastern cultures and has thankfully made its way west. It’s usually served as part of a “mezze,” which is a collection of small dishes served as a meal or appetizer. This vegan dish is usually made with bulgur wheat, but I’m going to make a gluten-free version with quinoa.
This fun, bright dish will definitely help curb your winter cravings for heavy foods and usher you right into spring! Try it over lettuce as a salad or even an appetizer with warm bread, soft or toasted.
- ½ cup rinsed quinoa
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- 2 large lemons, juiced
- 3 cups chopped parsley
- ¼ cup chopped mint
- ½ pound finely diced tomatoes
- 1 bunch scallions chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cook quinoa as directed and let cool.
- In a large bowl, combine garlic, lemon juice, parsley, mint, tomatoes, scallions, and olive oil.
- Once cooled, add quinoa to mixture and combine well; salt and pepper as desired.
- Serve immediately or store for up to one day in the refrigerator.