Sunday, September 05, 2010

Quinoa Cakes...

We've gone through quite a bit of quinoa lately, but we've been eating it in the morning - cooked with a bit of milk, sweetened with honey (maple syrup is wonderful too) and cinnamon, then topped with a handful of toasted sliced almonds. I usually get it taken care of the night before, then zap it in the microwave for a speedy, filling bowl o' breakfast. Quinoa is easy to take sweet, but in the bat of an eye, you can go savory too, like in these Quinoa Cakes with Ham, Onion and Chard we made.

You don't have to fuss much with ratios in cooking the quinoa here - just slosh it in a pot of boiling (well salted) water, then let it cook until it has become tender. You can taste a few to check, but quinoa also has a built-in visual doneness meter - the seeds are ready when you can see that the little curlique in each seed has exploded out. We used the spunky red quinoa, but the pale blonde kind is just as good.

With the water drained away and the quinoa given a chance to cool, we tossed them with fresh grated Parmesan cheese, a couple eggs and crisp panko breadcrumbs to bind the seeds together. Formed into small cakes (a larger ice cream disher works wonders), we let the rounds hang out in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes - the recipe didn't originally call for this, but we've found through experience that items like this hold together when given a chance to mingle in the chilly refrigerator air.

With those taking a break, we had plenty of time to get the onion-y topping together. You'll need about two medium onions, thinly sliced, to have enough to go around. Slowly cooked with fresh thyme in fruity extra-virgin olive oil, don't rush this process - keep them over medium to medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until their natural sugars have been drawn to the surface, caramelizing them into a rich golden color. Thinly sliced ham joins the tender onions, along with sturdy Swiss chard, anchoring the topping down with its earthy roots.

Once the chard has wilted, the topping is moved to a plate and covered to keep warm, while we use the same skillet to cook the tidy cakes. Before dropping them in, we gave each a dip in a bit more of those coarse breadcrumbs to coat, then browned them in two batches, allowing them to cook evenly with plenty of room between each cake. Quiona can sometimes be on the flat, dull side by itself, but between the salty cheese inside the cake and the sweet green topping, each healthy bite kept our taste buds on call, waiting for the next dynamite mouthful. One final note on quinoa - if you've never used it before, be sure to give the tiny dots a good rinse before using. Even if your quinoa says it has been pre-rinsed, I suggest this - the washing gets rid of its bitter saponin coating, which could easily ruin a tasty dish!



  1. I never tried quinoa but I will be soon this is a great idea it really looks like a good dinner

  2. A quinoa-lover here, thanks for the recipe... been on the look out for new ones!

  3. TIF - It is definitely more available now than it was a few years ago. Try it!

    Betty - We've posted several!

  4. LOVE quinoa...great recipe - thanks Joe!

  5. okay, you've made my day. we have a restaurant around the corner that makes the best quinoa cakes. i have tried to recreate without much success. i am making these this weekend!

  6. Gigi - Have any favorite ways to make it?

    TUBaker - Let us know if the compare at all!