After making zucchini fritters I had some leftover grated zucchini. I also had some leftover cooked quinoa in the fridge. I don’t love quinoa, but I’m trying to work on our relationship as I know it is a worthy staple. Inexpensive, fast, easy and nutritious. Gotta love that. Just not the taste and texture so much. But I thought I’d give it a second (er, twelfth?) chance as a supporting character and with a twice-cooked approach to alter the texture. Big improvement. The zucchini and quinoa played well together and their mild flavors accommodated a wide range of sauces and condiments (almost a requirement in our house). Next time I’ll make a double batch and freeze some to replenish my homemade convenience food stash.
The texture of these cakes is wonderful. Soft, a bit chewy, and little crunchy around the edges. To best preserve the crispy texture the quinoa cakes have straight out of the frying pan, plan to heat your oven and set up a rack that allows the warm air to flow all the way around the cakes while you work in batches. Some cookie sheets come with a cooling rack that fits neatly inside as part of a set like this one. I’m not much of a baker, so my tools in this area are limited. I simply jury-rigged a similar thing with the cooling rack and cookie sheet I had. Although the cooking rack hung off the end, didn’t lay flat and required extra care when removing from the oven, it worked just fine. Use whatever you’ve got that is oven-safe.
If you don’t have items lying around the kitchen that will accommodate this technique, or just find it too fussy, here’s an alternative. Microwave a large empty dinner plate for 30 seconds and just put the cakes straight on the warm plate as they come out of the frying pan. You lose some of the textural appeal as the bottoms go a bit soft, but they are still tasty. I use this plate-warming trick often in the cooler months, especially with food that cools quickly (e.g., fish, eggs, pancakes). It’s my modern (and inexpensive) recreation of an old fashioned (or super high-end) warming drawer. When heating our plates I do the whole stack at a time. Works great.
However you choose to store them while cooking up the entire batch, these cakes are winners. Very nutritious, with the quinoa providing protein and fiber. In a pinch, these alone (perhaps with a condiment) would make a decent lunch. They are delicious hot or cold. I served them with yogurt sauce (plain yogurt, lime juice, and garlic salt) and homemade chili sauce, but they would also be tasty with soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, served like a burger, or in a pita as you would a falafel. Like the zucchini & rice cakes recipe, the seasonings (and even the vegetable) can be changed to fit your tastes and refrigerator contents. Use it as a general guide on how to transform one night’s leftover quinoa and vegetables into lunch or dinner for another day.
Time: 35 minutes
Yield: ~12 cakes
1 medium to large zucchinis (about 1 lb)
2c cooked quinoa
1t ground cumin
½ t ground coriander
½ t (or more) salt or garlic salt (I use Goya Adobo)
¼ c or less oil (canola or olive)
0. If you want to keep these warm while cooking the whole batch, preheat your oven to 200 degrees. If using, place a cooling rack onto a cookie sheet (it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t really fit) and set aside.
1. Grate zucchinis using a box grater or food processor. It should yield about 3 cups. Place grated zucchini into a cleaning kitchen towel and squeeze out the excess liquid. (For an alternate method go here.)
2. Chop the parsley and garlic.
3. Crack the egg into the bottom of a medium size bowl and beat with a fork.
4. Add in the zucchini and all remaining ingredients. Stir to combine.
5. Heat 2T oil in a large frying pan on medium-high heat. Swirl the pan to coat the bottom. When oil shimmers, drop a scoop of the mixture in the pan using a 1/4c measuring cup. Flatten gently with the back of the measuring cup being sure not to create a split in the cake. (If it splits just nudge it back together. This is very forgiving stuff.) The cakes should be about 3” across. Repeat until you have 3-4 cakes in the pan, depending on the size of your pan. Don’t crowd them too much or they’ll be hard to flip. Cook the cakes until the bottoms are golden brown (about 3-4 minutes) and flip carefully. Cook several more minutes on the other side.
6. Remove completed cakes from the pan. Depending on your preference, place them uncovered on a cooling rack and into the oven or on a warmed plate.
7. Add a bit more oil to the pan if there are dry spots, and repeat until all the cakes are cooked. Enjoy plain or with your choice of sauce.
Note: As with the zucchini rice cakes, we didn’t have any leftover, but I’m sure these would freeze pretty well. Lay flat in a single or double layer (at most) in a large freezer bag. Thaw in the fridge to eat cold. To eat hot, defrost and pan fry or microwave from frozen.