There was life before Jake just as there was life before Jeni.
Life wasn’t better and it wasn’t particularly worse. It was just different. I found joys in my single life just as I do in the married.
These were the years I lived in little apartments around the Uptown neighborhoods of Minneapolis. I didn’t have cable television and I didn’t have internet. I ran two and a half miles every day and biked to the Rainbow grocery store on Lake Street. These were the years that I read my favorite food blogs but was too afraid to write my own. I entertained myself by renting books and DVDs from the library and had wonderful friends just as I do now, though some are different.
I only drank alcohol when I found myself at happy hours and never desired coffee. In fact, I didn’t even own a coffee maker back then. I definitely can’t say the same to either of these things today. Leftovers used to last a lot longer and now I measure a meal’s success by the lack therof.
Although I don’t regret my online dating experience, I don’t miss the stress of first dates, “defining the relationship,” and subsequent break-ups. But like any other experience that’s involved some degree of risk, I grew-up a little and got some really fantastic stories that seem much funnier in hindsight than they did at the time.
One story involves a particular ex-boyfriend. He was one of the only culinary-minded individuals I dated and prepared his signature dish on numerous occasions. Actually, it was his only dish, but fortunately it was good. He pan-seared tilapia and served it on top of salty quinoa cooked in a rice cooker with chicken stock, and sprinkled with diced, crisp sweet bell pepper.
Although that relationship headed south for the winter, I’ve added my own twists to the quinoa over the years. Now, I have a salad that I can eat for days at a time without tiring. It’s a little bit salty, a little sweet, and completely fresh. Try it and add your own twists.
Quinoa Salad With Bell Peppers, Currants & Feta
A Cook’s Notes: You can find quinoa in the bulk bin area of your grocery store. It’s much cheaper than purchasing it by the package. Plus, you can scoop out exactly what you want so it doesn’t go stale. Quinoa grains are coated in saponins, a naturally bitter coating that repels pests. Rinse it in a fine mesh strainer, unless you buy a package that says it’s pre-rinsed.
The same applies to feta. Grocery stores sell packaged feta in their cheese sections, but some also sell less expensive blocks of feta in bulk, priced per pound. French sheep’s milk feta is my favorite. It’s silky and creamy and lacks the bracingly salty bite. I used to buy French sheep’s milk feta at Holy Land Deli in Minneapolis, MN.
Quinoa, about a cup
Bell peppers, diced
Green onion, thinly sliced
Your favorite vinegar (I used red wine vinegar, but have also used champagne and white balsamic vinegars)
Feta cheese, diced into small cubes.
Currants (or any other dried fruit cut into small pieces like craisins or dates)
To cook the quinoa:
- Rinse quinoa in fine mesh strainer and shake off the excess water
- Place quinoa in saucepan and add twice as much water. Bring to a boil. Add a dash of salt, stir, and reduce heat to low.
- Cover and steam until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender.
- Spread the quinoa on a sheet pan or baking dish and cool in the freezer while you chop and dice the vegetables and cheese.
- Add as much diced bell pepper to the quinoa as you’d like. I added about half a yellow and half a red bell pepper.
- Add green onion. I like a lot of onion flavor so I added several.
- Sprinkle in a good handful of currants for sweetness.
- Toss in diced feta, adding just enough to get a salty note in each bite.
- Toss the salad with fresh lemon juice and a couple drizzles of olive oil. For additional tartness, add more lemon or your favorite vinegar.
- Season with additional salt if needed and black pepper.