Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Quinoa Cakes with Grape Tomato Salad

            After a reader, Ellie from Home Cooking in Montana, commented on my Farro Salad by saying it was similar to a salad she made with quinoa it got me thinking.  I had never cooked with quinoa before.  Actually, I had never eaten quinoa.  I knew that quinoa was a healthy grain, so I decided to get some information about it.

             First of all, I learned quinoa is not a grain at all.  It is an ancient seed that is in the same family as spinach.  It was present during the time of the Inca's and they called it "The Mother Food".  Scientists call it a pseudo cereal.

             It is a great food for vegetarians, because it is considered a complete protein source.  It contains a good amount of the amino acids, lysine and isoleucine.  It also contains a small amount of Omega 3 fatty acids.  Quinoa is also a good source of folate, magnesium, phosphorous, fiber, and calcium.  These molecules also do not get broken down during cooking, so the nutrition, post and pre-cooked are the same. 

             For those who are gluten sensitive, it does not contain gluten.  It's not in the same family even as wheat, oats, barley, and rye.

             It is a great substitute for rice, and since it has more nutritional value than rice I decided my first recipe with it would be one that I had previously made with rice.  It would also need to be kid friendly.

              I previously had made fried rice balls, so I decided on a fried quinoa cake.  I got the cake idea from epicurious.com.  I would cook it like a fried rice, and then fry it as small individual cakes. I would then top it with grape tomatoes in a balsamic vinaigrette.

  1. 3 Cups of cooked quinoa.  (1 uncooked cup makes 3 cups.)
  2. 1/2 large onion
  3. 4 small carrots
  4. 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  5. 3/4 panko or home made breadcrumbs
  6. 3 eggs
  7. 1 tsp salt
  8. 1/4 Cup parmesan cheese
  9. 1/4 Cup mozzarella cheese
  10. olive oil for cooking
Simple Grape Tomato Salad
  1. 1 Cup sliced grape tomatoes
  2. 1/4 cup olive oil
  3. 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
  4. salt to taste (2 pinches for me)
First quinoa needs to be rinsed.  It is small so it went through my smallest sieve.  I put it in a bowl and filled it with water.  The water definitely went from clear to cloudy, so rinsing was essential.  I let it soak for 5 minutes.  When they sat in the water, they had the consistency of kids moldable sand.  After 5 minutes, I drained the water out.  I held the sieve on top of the bowl while letting the water drain.  The grains did not go through the sieve this way.

Then I placed them in a pot with 1 3/4 cup of water.  The directions called for 2 cups of water per cup of quinoa, but doing research many said 1 cup of quinoa to 1 1/2 cups water worked well.  I went half way with 1 3/4 cup.  Put the water to boil, then lower the heat to low, cover and simmer until the water is pretty much all gone.  About 15-20 minutes.

You will also notice that there are little fibers in the quinoa.  This is normal, they are called the "tails".  It is just the outer covering of the seed, and is edible.

While the quinoa is cooking, finely chop your carrots, onion, and garlic.  I used my food processor.
 Saute the vegetables in 1 Tbl of olive oil. You don't want them to brown, just soften a bit.

When the quinoa is cooked add it to the veggies, and saute for a few minutes to mix everything together.  Then add your salt.  Taste to make sure there is enough salt.
Put the fried quinoa in a large bowl, and add the 3 beaten eggs, and the breadcrumbs.  Stir.  Note: regular breadcrumbs will not work the same as panko or home made.  Let the mixture sit, so the breadcrumbs soak up some moisture.

Get your frying pan ready to fry up the quinoa cakes. Add some olive oil to the pan, and put the pan on medium heat.

Just take a small palm full of the quinoa and form it into a small cake that is about 2-3 inches in diameter.  Put it in your heated pan.  After about 7-10 minutes the underside should have browned.

Turn over and cook the other side for about 7 minutes.

For the tomato salad, simply slice your grape tomatoes.  Combine your oil, vinegar, and salt.  Mix the tomatoes and vinaigrette together.

Place the quinoa cakes on a plate and top with the tomato salad.
The quinoa tastes a little nutty, a little crunchy.  Has a great texture.  My husband tried it and he gave me the "I can't believe it tastes good look".  My oldest and youngest liked them.  I really enjoyed them, and gave myself a pat on the back.  The 2 middle ones did not want to try them.  Oh well, can't please everybody.  It was more for the rest of us.


  1. Hi Siggy, SO glad you tried the quinoa! Your quinoa cakes looks and sounds absolutely delicious... and the tomato salad is a perfect compliment. What a nice healthy meal! Yum...

    I still need to make the farro... can't seem to find it here in MT. I tried my natural foods store ( where I thought I has seen it last) but to no avail. I should look more carefully next time... or ask:).

    Hope your day is going great....

    1. Ellie, you might be able to buy the farro online. This is the product I use. http://www.earthlychoice.com/ Good luck, and thank you for your kind words.