"What’s for dinner?" my daughter asks every day. Since I am a pretty good planner, I am often ready with an answer. But other times, after a particularly busy day, I am often caught without an answer. In that case, takeout usually saves the day. But I always feel a tinge of guilt as I am placing the order. Takeout is so more expensive and less healthy than eating a decent home-cooked meal.
In order to avoid the takeout trap, I have been creating and stockpiling recipes for easy to prepare, go-to dishes that I can make on a minute’s notice with ingredients I am likely to have in the house. This recipe for quinoa lettuce cups is one of them–although I will admit that limes and scallions could necessitate a trip to the grocery store on my way home from the office.
This dish is basically a salad, but served up in a way that seems to have greater appeal to my daughter. What is it about a bowl of salad that turns kids off anyway? It’s super healthy and delicious - I love the combination of sweet fruit and savory feta mixed. And these lettuce cups are filling but light, perfect for dinner on a hot summer’s night.
Plus, the dressing is divine. I am a big fan of lime and in this dressing it really works its tart magic. You can add the zest of the fruit for additional boldness, but when I am really rushed I skip that step and just add a little extra juice. I am also careful with the honey, adding it slowly to prevent the dressing from becoming too sweet.
These lettuce cups can stand on their own as a meal, but if my husband or I are up for the task then one of us might grill a piece of fish, which pairs really well with the flavors in the lettuce cup.
What are your favorite, easy-to-make go to dishes? Do you use dried fruit in any of them? Like many busy parents, I am always looking for new recipes, so please post yours in the comments.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE SALAD
- 2 cups dried quinoa, rinsed in cold water and drained thoroughly
- 4 cups water
- 10 Fruit Bliss apricots, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1/4 cup dried currants
- 1/3 cup finely chopped scallions
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted (see NOTE)
- Lettuce leaves, for serving
- Crumbled feta cheese, for garnish (optional)
FOR THE DRESSING
- Finely grated zest from 2 limes, plus 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 1 to 2 teaspoons honey
- 1/2 cup sunflower, safflower, or walnut oil
- Salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
- Combine the quinoa and water in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low; cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until all of the water is absorbed, watching carefully near the end to avoid overcooking or scorching the bottom. Uncover and fluff with a fork, then transfer to a large mixing bowl to cool.
- Add the fruit to the quinoa along with the scallions.
For the dressing:
- Combine the lime juice, honey, oil, salt, and pepper in a liquid measuring cup, whisking until emulsified. Stir in the zest, then pour into the quinoa mixture and toss to incorporate.
- (At this point, the salad can be refrigerated for 1 to 2 days in advance.)
- Toast the almonds in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat, shaking them often to avoid scorching. Cook for a few minutes, until lightly browned and fragrant. Cool completely.
- Mix in the toasted almonds. Line a platter with lettuce leaves, then spoon the quinoa salad into the cup of the leaves. Scatter the feta over the top, if using, or serve alongside.