A taste of Palestine on Central
From the moment we walked into Yasmine's Café, I could tell we were in for the real deal. There was the tantalizing aroma of garlicky meats rotating on their spits in the open kitchen, the Arabic-speaking clientele sipping hot tea from tall glass tumblers and a display shelf full of hookahs—there's a large selection of sizes and styles of these fancy water pipes you can purchase for later use. In coffeehouses and cafés in the Arab-speaking world, coffee and tobacco go together like lattes and laptops here in the States (although this is no longer so in Albuquerque, since the city's ban on smoking in public spaces). My friend and dining companion immediately commented on how much the place looked and felt like any number of Palestinian restaurants he frequented while living in the Middle East. I've never been to Israel or Palestine but there's an earthiness about the space that feels authentic to me. Dining at Yasmine's is like stepping off Central and onto another continent.
This is Not Your Mother's Tabouleh
Tabouleh is an excellent summer dish that's light, easy to make and healthy to boot; especially if you make it with quinoa. Traditionally, this Lebanese/Palestinian salad is made with lots of fresh parsley and cracked wheat (bulgur). In fact, tabouleh is all about the parsley, and should be a rich green color. For years I've been substituting the ancient Andean grain called quinoa for the bulgur. It's far more nutritious (high in protein and other nutrients) than the cracked wheat version and I prefer its delicious nutty flavor. Quinoa is not actually a grain. It's the tiny seeds of a leafy plant related to spinach. It is very important that you wash the seeds at least three times to remove the bitter tasting residue of saponin, a chemical which is naturally found in the seeds. Dry roasting the rinsed and dried seeds briefly will intensify its wonderful nutty flavor. Making it a day ahead will also intensify the flavors considerably.