I am a big fan of quinoa. It is one of the only grains you can serve someone who can’t eat wheat, and it’s as versatile as rice. Additionally, despite resembling a carb, quinoa is chock full of protein. The downside to quinoa is, like rice, it doesn’t have much flavor by itself. You can make quinoa in a pilaf or risotto form, as the base of a salad or my favorite – as a quinoa cake. There are many many permutations of this recipe floating out there, so you can be very creative in terms of what you mix into the cake for flavor. These cakes can be served as appetizers or as a main meal, with any number of condiments or sauces. I decided to make it simple tonight with a side of garlicky kale.
I’ve made quinoa cakes a number of times before and I’ve been trying to figure out how to get the cake to hold together well, since quinoa lacks gluten or starch to make it gooey enough. Tonight, I stumbled upon a solution and it starts with how I made the quinoa itself. Instead of steaming it on the stove-top like I normally do, I used my rice cooker. The quinoa came out slightly gooey (maybe a bit over-done?) and that, along with a few other things outlined below, helped me produce my best batch yet. If you don’t have a rice cooker, experiment with adding some flour to the recipe below as a binder, but if you do have a rice cooker, give it a try. Here is the recipe (makes about 15-18 cakes):
1.5 cups uncoooked quinoa
3 cups water
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons of plain greek yogurt
1 small shallot, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 pinch of salt
4-5 tablespoons of olive oil, plus possibly more
Place the quinoa and the water in the rice cooker and get it going. Once the quinoa is cooked, place it into a mixing bowl, and add the salt, parsley, thyme and shallot, stirring the quinoa so it cools down. It’s important to cool down the quinoa since you are adding raw egg and you don’t want the egg to cook. Once the quinoa has cooled down for a good 10 minutes, add the egg, yogurt and cheeses, mixing to combine. Using your hands, take a small palmful of the mixture and form into a flattened meatball-like shape and place onto a plate or sheet of wax paper. Continue forming cakes in this way until all the mix is used.
Place 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and heat it under medium high heat. Once it is good and hot (but not smoking), gently add your quinoa cakes to the pan. Allow the cakes to cook on one side for 5 minutes, flip and cook on the other side for 5 minutes. The cakes should be good and golden brown and cooked all the way through. You may have to do several batches of the cakes. Make sure to add a little extra olive oil between batches as the cakes tend to absorb it as they are cooking. I served them with a slice of lemon to squeeze over the cakes for an extra zing.
The side dish tonight was just a very simple garlicky kale dish. I make a lot of vegetables this same way, which is how my mom always made them: olive oil, garlic, and a touch of salt.
6-7 cloves of garlic, smashed
5-6 tablespoons olive oil
generous pinch of salt
1 large bunch of kale, stems removed
Place the olive oil and garlic in a heavy deep saucepan on low heat. With this recipe it is especially important to keep the heat low otherwise the oil will spatter when you add the kale. Allow the garlic to get lightly browned. Take the freashly washed kale and place it in the pan with a pinch of salt and cover it immediately. The excess water on the leaves will help to steam the kale. The kale will take about 15 minutes on low to soften. You should lift the lid and give it a good stir every 3-4 minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn. The kale can be cooked in advance and reheated when you are ready to serve. In fact, it is good to allow the kale to sit in the olive oil and garlic juices for extra flavor.