Ex-boyfriend Quinoa: A Sweet & Salty Salad Recipe

Back when I was a new college grad before I met Jake, 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.

This recipe was inspired by one particular online dating adventure during these years. This particular ex-boyfriend, who would probably consider himself a foodie, was proud of his signature dish that he prepared on multiple occasions. Actually, it was his only dish, but at least it was good.

Obviously I stole it and made it my own over the years. Now, I have a salad that I can eat for days. 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. 


Ingredients:
Quinoa, about a cup (You can cheat and use that pre-cooked packet stuff)
Twice as much liquid (water or stock)
Salt (omit if you are using a salty stock)
Bell peppers, diced
Green onion, thinly sliced
Olive oil
Lemon juice or your favorite vinegar
Feta cheese, diced into small cubes.
Currants or craisins
Black pepper
A delicious thing to add: Cooked lentils

Instructions:

To cook the quinoa:

  1. Rinse quinoa in fine mesh strainer and shake off the excess water
  2. Place quinoa in saucepan and add twice as much liquid. Bring to a boil. Add a dash of salt (if using water or low-sodium stock), stir, and reduce heat to low.
  3. Cover and steam until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender.
  4. Spread the quinoa on a sheet pan or baking dish and cool in the freezer while you chop and dice the vegetables and cheese.
To prepare the rest of the salad:
  1. 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.
  2. Add green onion. I like a lot of onion flavor so I added several.
  3. Sprinkle in a good handful of currants for sweetness.
  4. Toss in diced feta, adding just enough to get a salty note in each bite.
  5. Toss the salad with fresh lemon juice or vinegar and a good drizzle of olive oil.
  6. Season with additional salt, pepper, vinegar and oil as needed.

7 Comments

  1. I am always looking for good recipes for quinoa and this one looks like it would be great—-even though I don’t like feta (yea, I know–weird) . I am thinking I could sub something else in for that or pick it out. 🙂 Thanks for a great recipe–one I am definitely printing out!

  2. There’s got to be a different cheese to add if you wanted cheese. I like the salty boost and extra protein. Even mozzerella balls would be good.

  3. Looks good! I love to try new recipes and have never tried making quinoa myself before.

  4. The English teacher in me loves this post! I like how your story transitions into the recipe. And, the actual recipe looks pretty delish, too 🙂

  5. That’s such a compliment!

  6. I’ve never made quinoa before, but it looks good! Just curious – what’s the benefit of the organic quinoa?

  7. Oh I wanna make this!!! I have everything already- except the feta- but I do have goat cheese- and tri color quinoa I want to use.

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