Meatless Monday: Curried quinoa cakes with spinach

Are you ever stuck with too much leftover quinoa? These tasty little cakes will have everyone going back for seconds.

The Garden of Eating
Fried or baked, quinoa cakes stuffed with fresh vegetables, Parmesan cheese, and seasoned with curry powder are delicious with a cucumber yogurt dipping sauce.

I have a little secret to share. In the past, when I'd make too much quinoa, the leftovers would sometimes sit in my fridge, cold and unappetizing, taking up valuable refrigerator real estate, until enough time had passed and then I'd throw the whole mess into the compost. And then feel terribly guilty about wasting good food.

But not anymore! Now I find myself intentionally making way too much quinoa so that I can make these truly delicious quinoa cakes the next day.

I've been meaning to try these ever since my review copy of "Super Natural Every Day" by Heidi Swanson arrived and I found myself yearning for Heidi's recipe for little quinoa patties. But what with one thing and another (like having a second child) I kept forgetting about them. That's the thing about having kids, you basically forget everything.
 Until my mom-in-law threw together some surprisingly delicious (we all had seconds and some of us went back for thirds) quinoa cakes a few weeks back. Then it was just a matter of waiting until we had leftover quinoa to work with. I finally got my chance last weekend and my whole family was thrilled by the results.

Once you've got the quinoa base, it's as easy and flexible as any fritter. I added sauteed red onions, garlic, spinach, fresh cilantro and parsley, garam masala, ground cumin, sea salt, black pepper, Parmesan and used eggs and bread crumbs as my binder.

 I was short on time when I made these for our dinner so mine were fried but you can also bake them with great results. The ones my mom-in-law made were baked and they were very tasty and a little lighter, of course.

You can also add anything else you think would be tasty to these fritters – black beans, red pepper, substitute kale or chard for the spinach, etc.

Serve warm (or cold) with an herby cucumber yogurt sauce for maximum yum factor and enjoy the knowledge that you have a wonderful way to use up leftover quinoa for the rest of your days. 

Curried Quinoa Cakes with Spinach

These are also great the next day – gives the flavors more time to develop. Inspired by Martha Rose Shulman’s recipe in the New York Times and Heidi Swanson’s little Quinoa Patties in "Super Natural Every Day"

Serves 4
For the quinoa cakes:

2 - 2-1/4 cups cooked quinoa or 1 cup organic uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained and 1-3/4 cups water or stock (cooking it in broth or stock makes it way more flavorful) 

3 good-sized garlic cloves, minced

1 small onion, chopped

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained (optional – but if you do add them, use Eden Organic since their cans are BPA-free)

2-3 big handfuls of spinach, chard or kale leaves, washed, dried and roughly chopped (unless you’re using baby spinach in which case no chopping is necessary)

3 large eggs, beaten (pasture-raised are the best kind if you can get 'em)

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon garam masala or curry powder

1/2 tablespoon ground cumin

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil (4-5 tablespoons)

Breadcrumbs or flour, optional (if your mixture is too loose)
For the yogurt sauce:

1 cup whole milk yogurt

1/2 garlic clove, minced

1/2 small-medium cucumber, peeled and diced (optional – but it gives a nice crunch)

1 large handful of fresh cilantro leaves, washed, dried and chopped

1 small handful of fresh parsley leaves, washed, dried and chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1-3 tablespoons milk to thin the sauce, if desired

1. If you don't already have leftover cooked quinoa, your first step is to make some! If you do, skip to No. 2 below. Bring the water or stock to a boil, then stir in the quinoa, lower the heat and reduce to a simmer. Cover for 15-20 minutes until done – you'll know the quinoa is ready when you see the little white "tail" of the germ around the outside edge of each seed. If you're starting to see the little white tails but the quinoa seems too soggy, remove the lid for the last few minutes of cooking. You can also just drain the quinoa if that doesn't do it. And if the water is all gone but the tails are not visible yet, add a little more water and simmer for a few more minutes, covered. Then remove from heat and set aside to cool.
2. In a frying pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion for a few minutes, then add the garlic and spinach and cook for 2-3 minutes until the garlic is fragrant and the spinach is wilted. Remove from heat and let it cool for a few minutes.
3. In a mixing bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, eggs, spices, cheese, salt, pepper and the cooled down onion, garlic and spinach mixture. Mix together until combined thoroughly.
4. Using your hands, form small patties, taking care to make them rather chunky so that they'll have enough mass to stick together while you're frying.
5. Heat the peanut, canola or grapeseed oil in a large, heavy skillet (cast iron is ideal) over medium-low heat. Once it is hot but not smoking add as many patties ad you can comfortably fit while still allowing a little room between them so you'll have space to flip them and cook for 4-5 minutes or until the bottoms are deeply browned (cooking time will depend on how hot the pan and oil were when you started.) Carefully flip the patties with a spatula and cook the second sides for another 4-5 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the skillet and cool on a paper grocery bag while you cook the remaining patties.

6. Combine ingredients for yogurt sauce with a fork. Serve with the quinoa cakes.

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