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Buckwheat Tabouli


This one’s for my mother-in-law, since I promised her months ago that I’d share this recipe. Like so many of us, she began having some issues with gluten. I wanted to serve a tabouli (or tabouleh/tabbouli/tabbouleh–pick your spelling) for one of her recent visits, so I basically swapped out the traditional bulgur wheat in my mom’s recipe for buckwheat (along with a couple of other minor tweaks) to create this gluten-free version.

She mentioned that she might not have thought to make the switch. I think a lot of people think this way out of fear of losing authenticity or ruining a recipe if they’re not comfortable in the kitchen, or any number of other of reasons. I say if an ingredient isn’t serving your tastes or needs, toss it or swap it. As I’ve said before, one of the beautiful things about cooking for yourself is that the food can be exactly how you want it. Of course, things might not be so easy with certain recipes, particularly if you’re baking, but with a recipe like this where you’re just mixing up components, you can do pretty much whatever you want.

In fact, as far as I’m concerned, nothing in this recipe should be considered a hard and fast rule. I’ve included quantities, but you should take these more as guidelines. I generally approach tabouli more as a non-recipe–I grab the basic ingredients, chop ‘em up and mix ‘em up in whatever balance suits my mood or the meal. In fact, in a lot of traditional tabouli recipes, only a few scant tablespoons of the bulgur wheat is added. I like a little bit more, maybe because this is about the quantity my mom uses. You could also easily swap in quinoa instead of buckwheat or bulgur wheat. Sometimes I want a little more greenery, so I might add some kale or other leafy greens. Sometimes I add feta if the mood strikes. My mom’s recipe calls for regular onions, but I kind of prefer red onion when raw. I use cherry tomatoes, but that’s basically just because I find them easier to chop, think they look more attractive, and taste better to me than your average grocery store tomato. The point it, take the blueprint and go make it your own.
 

In this case, even the buckwheat gives you optionality in how to prepare it. I used some guidelines I found on VeganCoach.com. Their cooking method uses very little cooking liquid and allows it all to soak in so there is none to pour off. Since I often like to use stock or a stock/water blend to cook the groats, I’d rather not waste stock unnecessarily. Plus, if you soak them overnight, they cook in just a few minutes–however, that’s not required. Their site gives a few different methods, or if you prefer to go by the package instructions, Bob’s Redmill suggests a ratio of 1:2 buckwheat to liquid. The buckwheat has a nice, hearty texture and it’s extremely healthy. (See these articles on HuffingtonPost.com and WorldsHealthiestfood.com for more details)

Just one more prep note. You can easily chop up all the veg, throw it all in a bowl with the buckwheat, add the dressing and toss. That’s totally fine. That said, I like to season and dress gradually, as I go–chop, dress, toss, chop, dress, toss. I feel this allows the tomatoes and cucumber to start marinating while I chop the rest, and the dressing and salt distribute and absorb more evenly. My mom’s recipe also notes that tabouli is always better if you let it sit overnight.

 
Served here as part of a Lebanese spread including falafel, laban, hummus and pita.

Buckwheat Tabouli

Serves about 6 to 8

Ingredients

1 cup dry buckwheat groats, soaked overnight (Note: soaking is optional–it'll just take a little bit longer to cook. You can also go for the same quantity of the traditional bulgur wheat)
½ cup stock of your choice or water
16 oz cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1-1 ½ large hothouse cucumber(s), diced or sliced into slivers
1 small red onion, finely minced
1 large bunch of parsley, majority of the stems removed (About 2 cups once chopped)
1 - 2 oz package or 1 small bunch of mint leaves, majority of stems removed
½ cup lemon juice, or to taste
½ cup olive oil, or to taste, plus more for cooking
Salt
Pepper

Optional Swaps and Add-Ins

Feta
Kale

Arugula
Quinoa


Instructions

1. Rinse the pre-soaked buckwheat well and drain. Add a small amount of oil to a large pot and heat over medium-high heat. Add the buckwheat and cook for a couple minutes to toast lightly. Add the stock or water with a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until all the liquid is absorbed–about 5 minutes. (If any liquid remains, drain or allow it to cook off uncovered. If it's not cooked through, add a bit more liquid and cook for a few more minutes.) Allow the buckwheat to rest for a few minutes before fluffing with a fork. Season with salt and pepper and allow the buckwheat to cool.

2. While the buckwheat cooks, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil. Adjust the balance until it is to your taste. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onion. Add a small amount of the lemon juice mixture, and season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Chop up the parsley and mint and add to the mixture. Drizzle with a little more dressing and toss until lightly coated. Finally, add the buckwheat and drizzle again with dressing and toss until the whole mixture is combined and lightly coated. Taste and season again with salt and pepper as needed. Serve with additional dressing on the side. 




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