Quinoa, millet both boost protein in tabbouleh

Along with zucchini, tomatoes and cucumbers are both coming on strong in my garden. That means salsa and tzatziki; Caprese salad and quick pickles, maybe Greek salad pairing the two with some brine-cured olives.

But my favorite way to eat tomatoes and cucumbers together has long been tabbouleh, the Middle Eastern-Mediterranean salad usually made with bulgur and lots of fresh herbs, lemon juice and olive oil. It’s fairly common to see tabbouleh made with couscous.

But that variation leaves out a lot of the bulgur’s fiber and other benefits of whole grains. Made of semolina, couscous, is closer on the carbohydrate spectrum to pasta than the wheat grains that originate it.

One way to mimic couscous’ texture while reaping the benefits of whole grains is to substitute a seed such as quinoa or millet. The latter happens to be a favorite that I’ve recommended in a previous post. Whereas just about every American has cooked, eaten or at least by now heard of quinoa, millet remains relatively obscure.

So I shed some light on it while teaching a cooking class last week with participants’ shares of produce from a local community-supported agriculture program. And just as I suspected, no one previously had tasted millet. But they nearly all loved it as tabbouleh with cukes and tomatoes from Siskiyou Sustainable Co-op.

Comparisons of the nutritional value in millet versus quinoa are somewhat inconsistent. I’ve seen sources that give millet the edge over quinoa and vice versa. I decided to simplify things for my class and attest that millet is basically as healthy as quinoa, so celebrated for its high protein content.

Millet does have the edge in affordability, however. Readily available in bulk, it costs about half of what quinoa does. And the difference between conventionally farmed and organic is only 19 cents per pound at my local grocery store.

Once deemed only suitable for chicken feed, quinoa has shed its birdseed image while millet still is consumed mainly in the United States by feathered species. But if you like quinoa, you should love millet, at least that was the consensus in my cooking class.

Try them each out in the following recipe. Millet should substitute interchangeably, perhaps with the addition of bit more cooking water.

Tribune News Service

Quinoa Tabbouleh

1 pound raw quinoa

1/3 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil

3/4 cup grapeseed oil

2 cups diced tomatoes

1/3 cup finely chopped, fresh mint

3/4 cup chopped, fresh, curly parsley

1 bunch scallions, washed, ends removed and thinly sliced

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Pita or lavash bread, for serving (optional)

Place the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse with cold water. Combine quinoa in a medium saucepan with 1 ½ quarts water. Bring to just a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and continue to cook for 10 to 12 minutes or a few minutes longer for softer textured quinoa.

Meanwhile, make vinaigrette. In a glass measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil and grapeseed oil; set aside.

Once cooked, transfer quinoa to a large bowl and add the tomatoes, mint, parsley and scallions. Pour vinaigrette over salad, and toss to coat. Season with the salt and pepper and, if desired, serve with pita or lavash bread.

Makes 8 servings.

From “Fit Fuel: A Chef’s Guide to Eating Well, Getting Fit and Living Your Best Life” by Robert Irvine, (Irvine Products, $29.99).

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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