RECIPE: Peppers, feta and herbs make for memorable quinoa salad

Warm Quinoa Salad.
Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Warm Quinoa Salad. Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Whole grain salads aren’t usually the most exciting meal, especially this time of year, when produce picks are slim. But with a couple of smart cooking tricks and a heavy hand with those ingredients that are flavorful in February, you can prepare a grain salad that is healthful and delicious enough to repeat until spring.

While most whole grains take up to an hour to cook, quinoa can be simmered to tenderness in about 15 minutes. You’ll want to be careful with it though — add too much water and it’ll turn out mushy. Cook it too long and, again, it’ll turn out mushy. I prefer a water-to-quinoa ratio of almost 2-to-1 for a just-tender grain that’s firm enough to hold up to salad dressing.

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For the vegetable component, I like to combine red bell peppers and enough chopped parsley to add pronounced flavor and color. While the quinoa cooks, cook half of the bell peppers in a generous glug of olive oil until their skins start to blister and blacken — you’ll get the lightly charred sweetness of roasted red peppers without the super-soft texture. Keep the remaining peppers raw for crunch. Mix these in with the parsley, briny feta cheese, and a large lemon’s worth of zest and half of its juice. Let it sit and quickly marinate while the quinoa finishes cooking.

I like to serve this salad right after the quinoa is stirred in, topped with a jammy boiled egg, for a warm, nourishing meal. However, if you’ve got leftovers, it’s just as good chilled, straight from the fridge.

Warm Quinoa Salad
  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 red bell peppers, diced, divided
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Heaping 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 large lemon
  • Optional: Jammy boiled eggs, for serving
  • Combine the quinoa and water in a large saucepan. Season with a few pinches of salt, place over high heat, and bring to a boil. Once the water reaches a boil, cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the quinoa has absorbed the water and is tender, about 15 minutes.
  • While the quinoa cooks, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add half of the bell peppers and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the peppers begin to blister and brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the raw peppers, feta and parsley. Zest the lemon over the mixture, then slice the lemon in half, and juice one half of it into the bowl. Stir well.
  • When the quinoa is finished, add it to the bowl with the pepper mixture and stir well to coat. Stir in 2 more tablespoons of olive oil, then season to taste with salt, pepper and additional lemon juice. Serve warm. Serves 4.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 471 calories (percent of calories from fat, 44), 15 grams protein, 47 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 22 grams total fat (7 grams saturated), 33 milligrams cholesterol, 917 milligrams sodium.

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