Sunday, August 14, 2011

Quinoa Cakes/Patties--A new addiction!

     Recently, in my frequent/habitual/stalkerish browsing of the baking/cooking blogosphere, I've been able to pick out several trends that just about everyone tries.  One of them is the New York Times' proclaimed "Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever" (which I will be trying later this week.)  Another is varying curry recipes from would seem many people are addicted to Indian food these days?  Health trends are flying everywhere too--from gluten free to vegan diets, the internet community is ALL about sharing these recipes--which leads me to my new found love, quinoa.

     I admit I didn't fully understand what quinoa was when I went out and bought a huge bag of it from Costco--it can be a bit difficult to get the proper idea from photos where it's been all dressed up with sauces & meat or fruit.  But I did understand that it's gained a super-star reputation for being healthy and versatile. So what is it?
     If you're in the dark as I was, quinoa is basically a type of grain, small & round like couscous (which it can be used to replace, along with rice, oatmeal & even some noodles if you wish) which is super-healthy due to the fact that it's a complete protein.  (As in, rather than having a select few amino acids to help build proteins, it has all 8 by itself!)  Like any staple food, you still shouldn't eat ONLY quinoa--variety is a good thing, as I've learned this summer in my introductory bioanthropology class. :)  But, it certainly is handy!
     Anyway, my first experiment with quinoa was actually my own sort of chicken salad...cubed chicken breast with cumin, tumeric, dried oregano, salt/pepper, & mixed with a little greek yogurt rather than mayonnaise, of which I not only dislike the taste, but also can't stand because of it's completely unhealthy composition.  The flavors tasted FANTASTIC with the quinoa, and I've decided that greek yogurt is just the perfect medium to go with it & make it nice & creamy (though it still needs some spices for flavoring...)
   I decided my next experiment would be to make my own veggie burgers using quinoa (since most use a combination of black beans and other veggies I don't particularly love), but ended up finding recipes for patties that more resemble crab cakes instead in texture/flavor.  Well, I LOVE crab cakes, so I was extremely pleased with these! I pretty much just drew ingredients from various websites I looked at, except I substituted one key ingredient--greek yogurt--for the eggs that they all called for.  This was largely to be healthier, and also partly because I try to make eggless recipes when I can so that I have something of a repertoire when I need to cook for people who can't have eggs. :)  This base recipe is a good place to start, though in the future I plan on experimenting with different flavors, and I have plans to find some sort of a sauce like Aioli or something along those lines (like what would be delicious with crab cakes, for example!)  I made a small amount of these, since it was just for me, so I'd say these could be appetizers, salad-toppers, a side dish, or really even a main dish if you have a smaller appetite as I did at the time!

Basic Quinoa Patties for 1 (makes 2 small patties!)

1/4 C COOKED quinoa 
1.5 T parmesan (finely grated)
About 1/2 tsp finely chopped chives
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbls Panko breadcrumbs
About 2 1/2 tsp no-fat greek yogurt
1/4-1/2 tsp each Tumeric, Cumin, & Dried oregano (to taste)
Olive oil
  1. Mix all ingredients in a small mixing bowl. (Mixture shouldn't crumble too easily, it must hold its shape-so add more greek yogurt if necessary!)
  2. Bring a small skillet to medium heat on the stove, drizzle a light amount of olive oil to fry/prevent sticking
  3. Form small patties with your hands out of the quinoa mixture, place into the skillets & let fry for a few minutes on each side (should be slightly golden brown)
  4. Cover with your favorite sauce, or simply eat plain--they've got a nice flavor all by themselves!

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