Week 4: The Mother of All Grains

Cooked red quinoa

Quinoa can be intimidating – it doesn’t even have an obvious pronunciation. Pronounced KEEN-wa, it is an ancient food that originated in South America. The Incas called quinoa “the mother of all grains,” but it’s actually seeds from a plant that is related to beets, spinach and chard. The seeds are however treated like rice and other grains when cooked and become light and fluffy, with a mild and slightly nutty flavor.

Quinoa is truly a super food; a complete protein, with all 9 essential amino acids, plus lots of fiber, iron and magnesium. It is also gluten-free and easy to digest. This makes it an invaluable food for vegetarians and vegans, but shouldn’t be overlooked by meat-lovers. It can be a great addition to any meal as a side dish, or as a substitution for meat as a main dish. Since it’s supposed to be a good idea to cut down on meat consumption both for your health and for the environment, quinoa is a perfect replacement to try once or twice a week.

This super grain is incredibly easy to prepare. Rinse the quinoa and then, using a 1:2 ratio of quinoa:water, bring water to a boil and add the quinoa, stirring until all the water is absorbed. It comes in an array of colors, but the most common in U.S. supermarkets is white (which looks more like tan) and red. I chose to use red quinoa for this recipe because I typically cook with white and I thought the red would add a beautiful color to the dish. Although the quinoa ended up being breaded (and therefore the color doesn’t really show), it still looks great when you bite into it, and the flavor is wonderful!

Curried Quinoa Cakes

This recipe was created by our contributor Russ. You can read about him on the “About” page.

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Yields: 24 small cakes or 12 large cakes (depending on what size muffin pan you use)

  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium shallot, diced
  • around 3/4 bunch of dill, chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cups of whole wheat bread crumbs (around 3 slices)
  • 1 T curry powder
  • 1 t tumeric
  • 1 t whole grain mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Around 1 C panko breadcrumbs
  • Canola oil for frying
  • Mustard or your other favorite sauce for dipping (I recommend my favorite, Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale & Honey Spice Mustard)

In a large saucepan, bring salted water to a boil. Add quinoa and cook until water is fully absorbed, stirring frequently. Set aside and allow to cool.

Veggies mixed up in bowl

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350° and combine the diced veggies and chopped dill in a large bowl. Add whole wheat bread crumbs and 2 eggs, mixing together. Add cooled, cooked quinoa and combine.

Quinoa, veggies and breadcrumbs mixture

Generously grease a mini muffin tin (or regular muffin tin if you want bigger cakes). Spoon quinoa mixture into the wells, filling each until level and patting them down firmly with the back of a spoon. Bake for 10 minutes, until cakes are firm to touch (you may need to add a few minutes if you use a regular size muffin tin).

Quinoa mixture in mini muffin tin

The cakes should slide right out of muffin tin and hold their shape

Once cakes are done cooking, heat a large skillet filled with canola oil about 1 inch deep over medium-high heat.

Place 2 remaining eggs into a bowl and fill another bowl with panko breadcrumbs.

Breaded cakes, ready for frying

Cakes in the frying pan

Dip the cakes into the egg wash, then coat with breadcrumbs. Once the skillet oil is 350° (or a piece of bread browns in 10 seconds), carefully place the breaded cakes into the oil. Turn after around 20 seconds, then cook for another 20 seconds (or until evenly browned).

Quinoa cakes and mustard – great as an appetizer or entree!

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