Quinoa and Red Lentil Cakes with Warm Cherry Tomatoes
Have you jumped on the quinoa bandwagon yet? It seems that every now and then a new trend takes over the culinary world and everyone starts cooking it. Quinoa looks like a grain but in fact it is a seed passed on to us through the ancient Inca culture. It’s known as the super seed and its claim to fame is the fact that it is gluten free and protein rich. In our protein crazed society that’s an appealing factor. Quinoa, however, is a lovely grain and if you are interested in cooking at all you should have a couple of quinoa recipes in your culinary repertoire. It is a cooperative seed as it cooks quickly, remains fluffy and yet retains nice texture that holds up when paired with other foods. It’s delicate nutty flavour blends well with vegetables and even fruits. Quinoa can be served as a cereal for breakfast, in salads, soups, on its own or with other vegetables. When buying quinoa get close and notice the aroma. It should be fresh and nutty and never rancid or musty. At home store it in an airtight container and use within a reasonable time frame. To cook plain combine 1 part quinoa with 2 parts water, bring to a boil and then simmer until water is absorbed and grains are fluffy. 1 cup dry quinoa would yield about 2 cups cooked, give or take a little.
Now to the recipe. The cakes are easy to put together and cook well. I usually add the eggs to make sure the cakes hold their shape, however, you can certainly leave the eggs out for a vegan version. The resulting cakes would be more delicate and fragile but should still hold together, not quite the same but still, reasonably well. I also serve this for a substantial weekend breakfast or brunch sometime, with a poached egg on top (see below). The creamy yolk slides down over the cake and salsa and adds an element of richness to the dish.
Yields about 6-8 cakes
2 cups cooked quinoa
2 cups cooked red lentils
1 shallot, minced
1/3 cup parsley
1/2 cup ground walnuts air cashews
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala (see note 1 below)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon salt or more
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup fine dry breadcrumbs plus more for coating
2 cups steamed spinach
Combine cooked quinoa and cooked red lentil in a bowl.
Add parsley and nuts and mix with a spatula to combine.
Add spices and blend well, adding salt and pepper to taste.
Add eggs and mix well.
Add the breadcrumbs and mix and then begin adding the bread crumbs until you get a mixture that holds together well and can be easily shaped into cakes or patties.
Spread additional breadcrumbs on a plate. You will dip the takes in the breadcrumbs once you form them.
Heat up an electric griddle with a flat surface, the kind you would use for cooking pancakes. This will allow you to cook the cakes with a minimal amount of oil. Spray the surface with non-stick spray and then drizzle with a little canola oil, about 1-2 tablespoons. Brush the oil over the griddle surface and heat to medium high heat.
Scoop the cake mixture with your hands or a scoop and shape into flat, large cakes. Roll the cakes in additional breadcrumbs to coat the outside surface.
Lay the cakes on the griddle and cook until golden on each side, turning once (see note 2 below).
As the cakes are cooked arrange them on a baking sheet lined with foil. When all cakes are ready place them in a 350℉ oven for about 10 minutes to finish cooking.
Serve over a bed of steamed spinach and topped with warm tomato salsa (see recipe below).
Note 1: Some people do not enjoy the Indian and Middle East seasoning such as gram masala, cumin etc. If that’s the case, simply omit them and season with salt pepper and herb or spice of your choice.
Note 2: I have metal rings that I use with this recipe to make sure the cakes are nice and round. Place the ring on the griddle and lay the shaped cake inside the ring. Press the cake gently to fill the ring to the edges and after a couple of minutes of cooking you can remove the ring. You only need a couple of rings to make this work. The cakes will look nice and round and maintain an even height.
WARM CHERRY TOMATO SALSA
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 an onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
1 few sprigs of parsley, chopped
Heat onion in a skillet, add onion and cook until translucent.
Add garlic and cook until fragrant, a minute or so.
Add the tomatoes, lower heat to medium and cook until they soften and release their juices.
Add vinegar and salt and pepper.
Continue cooking to a saucy consistency, not too long.
Remove from heat and add the parsley.
Spoon over the cakes and serve warm.