Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Kitchen-Quintessential Quinoa Cakes

I'm quite excited to share this incredibly delicious recipe with you folks!  I first learned of quinoa's existence when I was about twenty-two or twenty-three.  I had just embarked on my veganism journey and couldn't devour vegan cookbooks fast enough.  It was such a new, inspiring, and exciting world.  I had lots of experience with vegetarianism, but veganism was a new animal.  (Pun very intended!)  Two years later I went on to attend a unique and mostly unheard of culinary school in Manhattan based alone on this new eating lifestyle I had acquired.  If I might name drop a bit, Bethenny Frankel also attended the Natural Gourmet Institute of Health and Culinary Arts!  

But in the beginning it was all very new.  Tamari, tahini, miso, seitan, tempeh, Earth Balance...  Using flax seeds in place of eggs for baking, silken tofu replaced cream cheese in cheesecake, I started eating more falafel and whole grains.  And that brings me to quinoa.  The first time I made it I used it like rice for a stir fry.  It was strange.  It tasted just fine, but how odd this little seed was, with it's perfect presence of all nine amino acids, creating an almost perfect protein.  When it cooked it had these little tail-like strings that sprouted out!  

I only lasted as a vegan for a couple of years.  You might wonder what made me fall of the wagon.  Cheese.  Cheese Pizza.  I was sitting on a lonely bench in a gorgeous park along the bay here in Bellingham, maybe I was hungry at the time, I don't recall what exactly created the perfect moment for me to fall off of veganism.  I do know that there was a young couple sharing a pizza just down the way, and if you can believe it, another young man was just a bit further down the grass and he too was eating a pizza!  The speed and direction of the wind was just right in that the aroma from that hot, melty, salty, real cheese and possibly more pizza wafted my way and was just more than I could take.  I sat on that bench and pondered if quitting was really worth it? 

I guess I decided that it was because the next morning I went to a local cafe with my sister Tara and our friend Jessi and we all shared a huge plate of Potatoes O'Brien.  And, oh how it was laden with butter, camped out under a bed of melted cheddar, and smothered in sour cream.  I knew I was in.  There was no looking back at that point.  After two years, I was a 'normal' eater again.  I did continue on with my plan to attend a mostly-vegan culinary school, making up for it by sampling foie gras, fancy bleu cheese, and creamy chorizo grits at the James Beard House, where I interned.  For the most part, culinary debauchery followed.  In a way, I turned my back on veganism and without meaning to, turned my back on health...

Fast forward over five years and here I am.  Maybe I'll fill in the gaps for you one of these days.  But for now, the good news is that quinoa has made it's way back into my heart.  I've been using it again off and on, but this last weekend I tasted it in a way I never have before and boy did it leave a mark!  As many of you know, I belong to the most fabulous cooking group on the planet, Around the Table, we had our monthly dinner this last Saturday evening and the appetizer just so happened to be a little quinoa cake topped with a gorgeous and ultra-flavorful heirloom tomato salsa.  I'm eating a lot healthier now and I'll tell you why soon.  Tasting this gourmet, wholesome little delight just lit me right up and tickled my tastebuds.  I knew right then and there it was going to become a staple on our table.  And in this week alone, I've already enjoyed them three times!  I just knew I had to share them with you.

 These little cakes are thanks to a wonderful and lovely woman Caitlin, she's been in the group for about four months and is a fantastic addition in many, many ways.  I can't wait to see what other gems she pulls out of her apron!  These quinoa cakes are incredible.  They are tender, chewy, and satisfying.  They are great all on their own and I know they are wonderful on salad or topped with salsa!  Mo just made them and put grilled zucchini and a poached egg on top.  They are sinful dipped in a bit of ketchup or would be great with a light aioli or other sauce.  And, the really cool thing is they are kind of like crab cakes!  Texturally they remind me a lot of a good crab cake.   Anyway, the options are endless and because they are so easy to make I know you will be trying on all the options!  Okay, okay, enough yakking... just get to the recipe already I know you are begging!  

Quinoa Cakes
(adapted from a Food and Wine recipe)

1.5  C.  White Quinoa
2  C.  Water
2  Lg.  Eggs
1/2  C.  AP Flour
3-4  T.  Milk
1/2  C.  Cotija Cheese, crumbled 
1/4 C.  Curly Parsley, minced
1/4   C.  Shallot, minced
Salt and Pepper to taste

Measure out the quinoa into the baking pan you plan to cook it in, cover completely with cold water and soak for at least fifteen minutes up to an hour.  Pour into a very fine sieve and rinse throroughly.   Put back into pot and add two cups of water and a couple pinches of salt.  Put on high and bring to a medium boil stirring a couple of times, then put a lid on the pot and turn the heat all the way down to the lowest setting.  Keep an eye on the quinoa until all of the water is absorbed and the quinoa is very fluffy.  Let sit covered for about five minutes and them fluff a bit with a fork.  Add the remaining ingredients and combine gently.
Then using a large skillet, add a generous amount of canola or vegetable oil to pan fry, using about a 1/4 or 1/3 cup scoop if you have one, scoop the mixture into the pan making around four cakes total.  Cook on medium high until golden on each side, about four minutes per side, keep an eye on them and adjust heat as needed.  Set on a paper towel when finished.  
Enjoy right away or reheat later in toaster oven, etc.  I'm guessing they would freeze quite well also!  If you can't find cotija cheese, you could use a hard Italian cheese or no cheese at all.  Get the cotija though if you can.  The salty little crumbles make the cakes divine!

Let me know if you love them as much as I do!
Thanks for reading!  xx


Lori Ann said...

Hey you! I am so excited about this post!! I got on here to fetch one of your salad recipes for dinner and low and behold you were talking about quinoa! I just said to myself this weekend, "I have got to find some fabulous ways to use all this quionoa in my cupboard and here you go answering my thoughts! I will let you know how it turns out. Also, being off wheat since it completely does not agree with me, I am going to try replacing the wheat with an all-purpose gluten free baking mix. I'll let you know how that works. If you have a better idea, let me know! Thanks Rachelle. You are fabulous!

Sweet Bee Cottage said...

Just found your blog today while searching for a vanilla simple syrup recipe to use in my latte and loved it here! I signed on as a follower so I'm looking forward to coming back soon and seeing what you are cooking up next.

Ann said...

I love quinoa! Can't wait to try this recipe.

tina said...

HOpe you start posting more my dear!