Goat Cheese

Make 2-Ingredient Cheesy Fritters, Win Dinner Tonight

June 19, 2018

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big, BIG everything else: flavor, ideas, wow factor. Psst: We don't count salt, pepper, and certain fats (say, olive oil to dress greens or sauté onions), since we're guessing you have those covered. Today's special: crusty-edged, melty-centered fritters that come together with two ingredients.

A couple months ago, I was reading a wrinkled Lucky Peach issue. Specifically, Fall 2016. More specifically, an article about iconic dishes in fine dining. Eggs Benedict by Wylie Dufresne. Spherical olives by Ferran Adrià. Baked goat cheese with garden lettuces by Alice Waters.

The last hollered at me—not for its ritzy ingredients or flashy technique, but for the exact opposite. Waters’ dish, unlike its bedfellows, was uncomplicated. If you wanted to recreate it at home, who’s to stop you?

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In this way, the dish empowered instead of awed, which, ironically, made it more awesome. It “introduced many Americans to chèvre and exalted the pleasure of a simple garden salad.”

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Top Comment:
“Everything was going great until I put the patties in the pan... Will try again - maybe with more cheese to make it stickier, or let it set and cool for longer. On the plus side, cheesy crispy fried quinoa in loose format still made a tasty topping on arugula salad ;)”
— madison

This was 1980 in Berkeley, California. Soon enough, funky-fresh cheese and minimalist salads spread like weeds across the country. Over 40 years later, the combo has yet to lose its charm. Then again, why would it?

Tangy, custardy cheese; golden, crunchy breading; and crisp, raw greens, barely dressed, like someone about to dive into the ocean. The formula is stripped down and to the point, just like all Big Little Recipes hope to be.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

I wanted to celebrate this. And switch it up.

Instead of keeping the cheese and crust separate, why not stir together, team up, join forces, save the world? This moves away from a special medallion, of which you’d savor one or two, and toward a heartier nugget, of which you’d gobble up as many as possible.

I started brainstorming breadcrumb alternatives. Something that could act as a binder. Something I’d want to eat alone. Something grainy, like rice or barley or farro. Or—or, or!—not grainy, like quinoa, which is actually a seed, but cooks up fluffy and nubby, almost like couscous.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

Bonus: Unlike many grains, which take 30-plus minutes to cook, quinoa requires half that. Once it has absorbed all of its water and turned tender, add gobs of goat cheese, then stir until everyone is melty and gooey and happy. Let cool for a few minutes while you feed the cat or set the table or tell the cat to get off the table.

Now form into little patties. There is no right or wrong way to do this. You could use a cookie scoop, then smush flat. Or, my preference, by hand. Things will get messy. But if you lick the goat cheese off your fingers, no one would ever know (and I would never tell).

Because the quinoa is already cooked, the patties crisp up in shimmery olive oil in as little time as it takes to dress the salad. Which is a kind way of saying: Throw baby arugula into a big bowl, carelessly drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, sprinkle with salt, and toss by hand.

If this all sounds almost too simple to be a recipe, well, that’s the point.

What's your favorite way to eat quinoa? Tell us in the comments!

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Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


Aidan August 14, 2018
How much couscous or barley would I substitute for the quinoa?
I'm allergic.
Emma L. August 14, 2018
Hi Aidan! I haven't tried this with a quinoa substitute, but I'd start with couscous, and use the same amount. If you try, let me know how it goes!
madison July 18, 2018
Everything was going great until I put the patties in the pan... Will try again - maybe with more cheese to make it stickier, or let it set and cool for longer.

On the plus side, cheesy crispy fried quinoa in loose format still made a tasty topping on arugula salad ;)
dinny July 9, 2018
Mine melted into a puddle. What did I do wrong?
Emma L. July 9, 2018
Hi Dinny—so sorry to hear that! I didn't encounter that issue in my tests and am not totally sure what went wrong. Did you let the cheesy quinoa rest before shaping/frying? Was the quinoa wet/watery before you mixed in the cheese?
Joan July 7, 2018
And instead of quinoa? Anything else?
Emma L. July 8, 2018
Hi Joan! I haven't tried this recipe with another grain so I can't say for sure. I imagine that rice—say, a sticky short-grain variety—would be your best bet.
Sarah F. June 23, 2018
Theses look good but can’t do goat cheese. Any ideas for a substitute?
Jimena A. June 24, 2018
Same here! Please share if anyone has a good substitute
Chris L. June 24, 2018
Try some cream cheese (Neufchatel) or mix it with some white cheddar or some camembert, or brie. Any of those cheeses are soft and flavorful. Instead of the bitter greens, try a pear or Waldorf salad, or a mixed fruit salad with plain yogurt. The sweet and tart tastes pair well.
Emma L. June 25, 2018
Hi! I haven't tried another cheese, so I can't speak to the exact measurements, but I imagine that most melty cheeses would work: Any of the ones that Chris mentioned, or grated Monterey jack, provolone, or gruyère. Let me know if you try!
Jimena A. July 2, 2018
I just did them with Port Salut and they were an instant hit!
Leslie K. June 19, 2018
I can’t wait to try this! Goat cheese! Arugula! EASY!