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Quinoa Cakes on Salad and Jumping on the Bandwagon

April 17, 2011

Well hello there! Yes, I’m still alive.  I’ve just been a little bit busy lately.  Any moment not exhausted carting around a video camera is instead spent researching media law and U.S. Copyright code.  Sweet life.  And now April is all of the sudden half over and I’m sitting here absolutely flabbergasted by time’s uncanny ability to just zip right on by.

The time’s been well spent though.  Two weeks ago my creative food writing class (yes, that’s right…I’m getting college credit for doing what I love) took a day trip to Polyface Farms, about 40 miles away.  For any incomplete person who has yet to read Omnivore’s Dilemma or view Food, Inc., Polyface Farms is, in short, an entirely sustainable farm raising free-range meat for the local market.  The owner, Joel Salatin, is a radical food philosopher and I’m pretty sure he can convince anyone that no meat but honest, local, pasture-raised meat is worth eating.  But I’m not going to even attempt to teach all that he stands for; I’ll trust that you’ll do a little recreational reading to learn that.

But anyway, my parents came down for the day to join us on our trip.  The early April weather provided us with a odd mixture of torrential winds, sleet, hail, and warm sunshine as we trekked over the beautiful, cow-patty laden, rolling hills of southern Virginia.  We met happy, fat piggies, an enormous flock of hens, and pens full of rabbits along the way.  Our final stop was the Polyface store where we stocked up on a plethora of their exceptional meats.  The day ended with an amazing lunch/dinner at Shenandoah Pizza and the Split Banana before I was dumped back at my dorm for the return of stressful college life.

But finally, this weekend I made it home for two nights for a chance to simply get away and to cook.  I had just the recipe in mind.  You see, all college students have their sure-fire method of procrastination.  What do I do?  I pore over other food blogs dreaming of things I want to make and in the past week or so I’ve noticed a very prevalent trend: Heidi Swanson.

I’ve read her blog regularly and literally drool over most recipes and I was certainly aware of her forthcoming book.  I almost preordered it on Amazon but awful decision maker that I am, never got it (Nia did though).  I flipped through the book at Barnes and Noble, loved it, yet still my indecisiveness kept me from purchasing.  And now, I realize that I probably won’t ever have to.  In the last week, I’m pretty sure that anyone who calls themselves a food blogger has published their experience with one of Heidi’s new recipes.  At this point, the contents of the entire book are probably just floating around on the Internet somewhere.  So finally home and able to cook, I jumped on the bandwagon and took a stab at one of these beautiful creations myself, Quinoa Cakes, my version of Seven Spoons’ Quinoa Patties, adapted from Heidi’s original recipe.  Got that?

They are not as easy and “whip-it-up” of a recipe as I had been led to think.  They take some time and make a bit of a mess but they are oh so worth it.  The flavor of the cakes is extremely nutty and with just enough kick on pungency from the garlic and onion.  It gets beautifully crisp on the outside while the egg keeps the inside moist.  Topped with a poached fresh egg and served on a bed of lightly dressed greens and asparagus, it was perfection – the light, healthy and flavorful sort of dish that I long for in my days of dull sandwiches.  On a side note, the next evening, we made Polyface Farms pork tenderloin, marinated in garlic, lemon, and herbs, and roasted in the oven.  Nothing can compare with the juiciness and completely true and awesome pork flavor…ever.

Quinoa Cakes with Poached Eggs and Salad

Leftover quinoa cakes are delicious the next day, re-crisped in some oil in a hot pan or simple heated in the microwave so cook up a lot and stockpile if you want amazing lunches for the week.  Heidi also suggests adding some chopped vegetables to the patties but I like them best with my veggies on the side so I really get the  full flavor of the quinoa and eggs.  I would recommend that as brunch, lunch, or dinner.


½ large yellow onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 ½ to 3 cups cooked quinoa, room temperature
4 eggs, beaten
½ tsp salt
2 Tbs. finely chopped chives
½ cup grated Parmesan
1 ¼ cups whole wheat bread crumbs
olive oil

Finishing touches:

-Salad, prepared any way you want (I used spring mix, chopped celery, asparagus, sliced tomato, and an apple cider vinegar and olive oil dressing).  I can imagine avocado and red bell pepper going nicely with it too.

-1-2 poached eggs per person served

-Grated Parmesan, for sprinkling

-Salt and pepper, to taste

To make the quinoa cakes, heat olive oil over medium in a skillet. Sauté the onion and the garlic for just a minute or two until it begins to turn translucent and soften.  Set aside to cool slightly.  In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, eggs, and salt and mix to combine.  Then mix in the chives, onion and garlic mixture, and cheese.  Finally, mix in the breadcrumbs.  It will seem slightly wet but this is essential for a moist cake.  You’ll actually be surprised at how well they end up holding together.

Preheat the oven to the warm setting so you can keep the cooked cakes warm on a plate while the rest are prepared.  Divide the quinoa mixture into 8 parts and form each into a ¾ inch thick patty.  One will probably be substantial for one person but I found myself snacking on the leftovers while doing dishes and I was grateful for the extras the next day.

Heat 1 Tbs. of oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook four cakes at once for about 5 minutes on each side.  Press down on them as they cook to really develop a nice crust on the outside and gently ease them over when flipping.  Don’t be worried if they look really brown, this is all delicious toasty flavor.  Place the first batch in the oven to stay warm while you cook the rest.

Meanwhile, grab a friend to help you prepare your salad and poach the eggs.  This will ensure that everything arrives at the table fresh and each component at its proper temperature.  Plate the salad, place a quinoa cake in the center, top it with your egg, and sprinkle extra cheese and salt and pepper to taste on top.  Before eating, pierce the egg with your knife letting the yummy yolk ooze everywhere.

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