Gluten Free Middle East Meal – whipped feta, chicken meatballs and quinoa tabbouleh

Last night I made the BEST dinner ever.  In fact, many of you asked for the recipe so here it is….but first a brief walk down memory lane….

elwa beach robin shea mcgee photo

*ELWA beach, about 1/2 mile from our house. Photo credit:  Robin Shea McGee

As a kid, I grew up surrounded by all kinds of wonderful cultures and food.  From the age of 5-13, I lived in Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa.  In the 1980s, Lebanon was not prime real estate for many people.  As a result, thousands of Lebanese moved to Liberia to set up restaurants, shops and businesses.  Many of my childhood friends were Lebanese and I was exposed to some of the GREATEST food on earth. Hummus, Kebbe (meat mixed with crushed wheat and meat soaked in vinegar), Shish Berak (dough balls stuffed with ground beef and cooked in yoghurt) and Fatet (yoghurt, fried bread and nuts) just to name a few.

lebanese food

I tried, for years, to find authentic Lebanese restaurants in the towns we’ve lived in. Unfortunately it’s been impossible.  Persian? Yes.  Greek? Yes.  Lebanese?  Nope!

I’ve had to create my own recipes of dishes I dream of from my youth.  This tabbouleh came from that effort.  Traditional tabbouleh is a finely cut parsley salad with bulgar wheat.  Not gluten friendly at all!  Served with gluten laden pita bread and hummus, this salad is not something I could eat.

As I was looking in my pantry yesterday, I thought…hmmm, I know I can make this gluten free with a few substitutions.  Below is my version of Lebanese Tabbouleh salad.

I served the tabbouleh salad with chicken spinach meatballs (see link below for the original recipe from Spoonful of Flavor and a Dash of Life blog with my substitutions) and whipped feta (link here for recipe).

quinoa dinner

No need for any other carbs with this mix.  It’s filling, super yummy and makes THE BEST leftovers!  Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Lebanese Tabbouleh with Quinoa

2 large bunches of Parsley (not the decorative type–please get the real organic stuff!), rinsed and finely chopped (super small cuts…you don’t want pieces of parsley stuck in your teeth!)

1/2 red onion, finely diced

2 tomatoes, finely diced

2 limes, juiced

salt and pepper

1 cup cooked quinoa, cooled slightly

Mix it all together and let it sit, covered, in the fridge for at least an hour.  The salad is best when all the flavors have melded.  Feel free to add 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint in the summer. Also, you can substitute the lime for lemon.

Spinach Chicken Meatballs (Original recipe can be found here)  *See my changes below.  I’ve made this recipe with the sauce before. I didn’t this time as I didn’t have any tomatoes in my pantry!

For the meatballs:
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken
  • 1 cup baby spinach chopped into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup oatmeal, gluten-free
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 ounces shredded gouda cheese

Mix all ingredients together.  Form into small-sized ball shapes.  Heat a skillet with 1-2 Tbls olive oil.  Add meatballs to pan and fry until brown.

These can be made ahead of time, cooked and frozen.  I often will do this on a  Sunday, doubling the recipe so I have some I can pull out for a last-minute meal.

Last night Tobin declined eating the tabbouleh and instead, put two meatballs in a bun with the whipped feta for a middle eastern take on the sub sandwich!



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