This Falafel Tabbouleh Salad with Quail Eggs & Labneh exists because I haven’t had a salad on the blog since May 3rd. May 3rd! And it barely counts because it was a pasta salad. You must think I have scurvy by now. I can assure you that I don’t, I swear I get enough vitamin C, and no, I don’t rely on gummy vitamins… well, not entirely anyway. I just thought maybe we could take a break from ice cream sandwiches and creamy brie sauces, and remember that vegetables are pretty alright. So, I give you this Falafel Tabbouleh Salad teaming with flavourful herbs, juicy tomatoes, and crisp cucumbers. The falafel is fried, though – I’m not made of stone.
The thing I love about salads is you jam just about anything into them. It’s the ultimate fix for those moments when you’re coping with eight simultaneous cravings. You can give the salad a theme or you can let chaos prevail. You can load it up with antioxidants or you can make it more cheese than salad. This! This is another reason I love salad; it’s deceptive and sneaky. It is both an angel and a devil, a compromise, and a temptation. It’s the only dish I can think of that is as contradictory as a person.
When people say they hate salad, I arch my eyebrow like it has never been arched before. How can you hate salad? You can do anything you want to salad and still call it a salad. I mean, I guess at least one vegetable has to be invited to the party but even then you can opt for iceberg lettuce: the world’s most inoffensive and completely useless vegetable. So, I press them and most of the time they concede that they do, in fact, like the occasional Caesar. You can’t hate salad. Salad, like life, is whatever you want to make it. How deep was that? Truth bombs as demonstrated by salad. Where else can you find that?
But all kidding aside, today’s Falafel Tabbouleh Salad with Quail Eggs & Labneh is a snap-shot of what was running through my head last Wednesday. When you look at as many food photos and recipes as I do, a jumble of delicious things tend to get stuck in your head. Falafel is practically a permanent resident in my brain, so into the salad it went. I wanted the labneh because I’ve been a fan of The Simpsons for my entire life and I find pleasure in very stupid things. I wanted the quail eggs because, um, itty bitty eggs are cool. And, finally, I wanted the Israeli couscous because, um, jumbo couscous is cool. And while jumbo couscous is, in fact, very cool, the coolest thing about Israeli couscous isn’t its size.
Apparently, unlike traditional couscous, Israeli couscous isn’t that old. It dates back to the 1950s and like all my favorite food innovations, it was born out of necessity. When Eastern European Jews migrated en masse to Israel in the middle of the last century, strict food rations were put in place. In an effort to bolster dwindling reserves of rice, the Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion encouraged his people to develop an alternative. The result was Israeli Couscous also known as p’titim or “Ben-Gurion rice”. So, what is Israeli couscous? Israeli couscous is essentially rice-shaped noodles that are toasted. This differs from traditional couscous, which is milled durum semolina processed with water. Israeli couscous shares more similarities with orzo and farfel than it does with couscous. Interesting, no?
So, that’s the scoop on this Falafel Tabbouleh Salad with Quail Eggs & Labneh. I hope you make it and if you do, please don’t skimp on the labneh. I know it takes patience, but after you try it you’ll wonder why cream cheese even bothers existing. I’m serious! I’m thinking labneh may be my smear of the moment. And it’s a little too easy to make. I mean, it takes time but patience is a virtue…apparently. And practice makes perfect, so the more the labneh you make the more patient and virtuous you will be. That sort of makes sense, right?
- 1 (750 g or 26 oz.) tub full-fat yogurt
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup uncooked Israeli couscous
- 16 quail eggs, hard boiled, peeled & halved
- 1 bunch curly parsley, washed & finely chopped
- 2-3 Persian cucumbers, quartered & sliced
- 2 cups fresh grape tomatoes, washed & quartered
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup fresh mint, chiffonade
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 1 can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh curly parsley, finely chopped
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 4 cups canola oil for frying
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl combine the yogurt and salt.
- Place the yogurt in the center of a large piece of cheese cloth. Wrap the cheesecloth around the yogurt to form a bundle.
- Tie the bundle to your faucet and let it drip for at least 4 hours. Overnight is better.
- Transfer the labneh to a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Cook couscous according to package directions. Drain cooked couscous, then rinse and set aside to cool.
- Place couscous, eggs, parsley, cucumbers, tomatoes, scallions, and mint in a large bowl and toss to combine. Set aside.
- Using a mortar and pestle mash the garlic and salt into a paste. Transfer the paste to a bowl and add the olive oil and lemon juice. Whisk to combine.
- Pour the dressing over the couscous mixture and toss to coat.
- Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Place chickpeas, garlic, tahini, cilantro, dill, parsley, salt and lemon juice in a large food processor. Blitz until smooth.
- Transfer the chickpea mixture to a large bowl and add the breadcrumbs. Using clean hands, integrate the breadcrumbs into the chickpea mixture. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, preferably 2 hours.
- Form the falafel into 2-inch balls and set aside.
- Heat canola oil in a dutch oven. When the oil reaches 375F start adding the falafel. Fry the falafel until dark brown and crispy but not burnt. About 5 minutes.
- Transfer the finished falafel to a plate lined with paper towel to drain. Keep warm until ready to eat.
- Divide tabbouleh salad amongst 4-6 bowls. Add 2-3 falafel to each bowl and top with a dollop of labneh and crushed red pepper flakes if desired.
- Serve immediately.