Who needs another easy, satisfying and plant-powered grain salad? Better question, who doesn’t? This one is bursting with fresh, raw produce and lots of herbaceous lemony flavor, inspired by a popular middle eastern dish, Tabouli (Tabbouleh) Salad. I say “inspired” because my version is not exactly traditional. When I think of a classic tabouli, I think of mostly fresh chopped parsley flecked with bulgur, cucumber, tomato and onion. And while mine mimics the flavors and ingredients of a classic tabouli, it’s definitely not the classic.
So why am I switching it up? Here’s the thing… fresh parsley can be very overpowering to me. I don’t even like parsley as a garnish, it’s just too much, so a traditional tabouli isn’t really my thing. The tabouli-ish salad I prefer is the actually the boxed tabouli mix that my mom doctors up. I like it better because it’s mostly grains and veggies seasoned with an included dried spice mix. The herby flavor is still there, but the parsley isn’t dominating.
Basically, my version of Tabouli is inspired by the traditional (fresh herbs, tomato, cucumber, onion, lemon, garlic), but with the feel of a true grain salad (hearty brown rice, fresh veggies and a parsley-mint-lemon vinaigrette). My beloved brown rice is chewy, satisfying and a great base for this salad because it perfectly absorbs the vinaigrette. Which brings us to that vinaigrette. By far the star of the show, this vinaigrette combines fresh parsley and mint and with rich olive oil, bright lemon juice and flavorful garlic. I add a touch of sweetness with honey or agave to balance out the lemon, and then just blend it all together. The finely chopped fresh herbs are broken down by the acidic vinaigrette and the flavor goes from overpowering to just right. I then toss the vinaigrette with cooked rice and fresh veggies, and call it a day. All the flavors and health benefits of a traditional tabouli salad, just with a client-approved Food Vibes twist.
Tabouli-Style Brown Rice Salad
1 cup dry brown rice
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1.5 cups diced cucumber (1 large, seeds removed, or 3-4 minis)
1/4 cup minced white onion or scallions (optional)*
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled/roughly chopped*
2 teaspoons honey (or sweetener of choice)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup packed fresh mint leaves
3/4 cup packed fresh parsley leaves/tender upper stems
Cook brown rice according to package instructions. I season with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Allow cooked rice to steam for at least 20 minutes, covered. Using a fork, fluff rice into a mixing bowl and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, cut cherry tomatoes in half, dice cucumber and mince the onion, if using.
Make vinaigrette by blending all vinaigrette ingredients together. I use an immersion blender to blend until the herbs are finely chopped. If you like the herbs more coarsely chopped, blend the dressing first without the herbs, adding the herbs at the very end or stirring in hand-chopped herbs. You can also whisk the dressing or shake in a jar instead of blending, finely chopping herbs and garlic before adding them.
When the rice is cooled, add the tomatoes, cucumber and minced onion. Pour in the vinaigrette and toss everything to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
While delicious right away, I prefer this salad the next day, after the flavors have had time to blend (making it great for meal prep).
Onion – onion (usually scallion) is a typical addition to tabouli salad. I use a standard white onion because I always have them. The onion mellows when it’s had time to sit with the vinaigrette, and you can even soak the onion in the vinaigrette before adding to the salad. Not into raw onion? Leave it out, still super delicious.
Garlic – I give two options for garlic here, raw and cooked. Raw is more traditional with a fresher feel, while sautéed has a richer yet more mellow flavor. I personally prefer sautéed but I’m often too lazy to do the extra step (delicious both ways).
Cooked garlic option – use a touch of the olive oil to sauté the garlic over low heat until just turning golden. You can also add the garlic cloves raw, but some people prefer cooked garlic over raw. I recommend using 2-3 large cloves if sautéing. Allow cooked garlic and oil to cool slightly, than add to the vinaigrette ingredients before blending.