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Fresh Herb Salad with Crispy Quinoa Cakes

Updated on February 18, 2014

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa has been called the most perfect grain, but it's actually not a grain at all. Quinoa is a seed related to spinach and chard. It has has been cultivated in South America for over 5,000 years and was a staple in the diet of the Incas along with corn and potatoes.

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has officially declared that the year 2013 be recognized as "The International Year of the Quinoa."

So Why is Quinoa so Popular?

The health eating revolution of the past few years has helped quinoa to soar in popularity. Here are a few of the dietary health facts about quinoa:

  • It is not a wheat product, so is attractive to those who have wheat and/or gluten allergies.
  • 1 cup is only 220 calories
  • The carbohydrate content is low-glycemic making it an ideal food for diabetics and anyone trying to stay away from high-glycemic white carbohydrates.
  • High fiber
  • 8 grams of protein!! It's not often that you find a complete protein in a plant based food.
  • Quinoa provides over twice the amount of calcium as is found in whole wheat
  • Quinoa is definitely a super food!

How to Cook Quinoa

The recipe for "Salad with Quinoa Cakes" relies on leftover quinoa, so I'm going to tell you how to cook quinoa:

  • Place the quinoa seeds in a fine-meshed strainer and run cold water over the quinoa while gently rubbing the seeds together in your hands. This removes the bitter taste found on the outside of the seed.
  • To cook the quinoa, add one part of quinoa to two parts water or broth in a saucepan.
  • After the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer and cover.
  • One cup of quinoa cooked in this method takes about 15 minutes.
  • When fully cooked you will notice that the grains have become translucent.

Cast your vote for Salad with Quinoa Cakes

How to Make Salad with Quinoa Cakes

Both of my parents were part of the generation that endured the Great Depression. When I was growing up, wasting anything was considered almost sinful. What people now call "green" and earth-friendly was simply a way of life for us. (We probably originated the "use it up, wear it out, make it do" philosophy).

So, why am I telling you this story? I had some leftover quinoa in my refrigerator. I love quinoa when it's steaming hot and fluffy, served along side Moroccan chicken enfused with cardamon, cinnamon, and other warm and comforting seasonings and spices. But a cold lump of quinoa is really difficult to get excited about--even if you love carbs as much as me.

So I devised this recipe to use up those yummy quinoa leftovers.

Cook Time

Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 5 min
Ready in: 10 min
Yields: 4 main-dish salads

Ingredients for Quinoa Cakes

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, packed
  • 1/2 cup canned garbanzos, rinsed and drained
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 tsp. fresh tarragon, minced
  • non-stick cooking spray
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  1. Chop the garlic in a food processor. Add the parsley and pulse until finely chopped. Add the garbanzo beans and pulse until finely chopped.
  2. Fold the garbanzo mixture into the quinoa; add eggs, lemon zest and tarragon and stir until well combined.
  3. Line a 1/4 cup measuring cup with saran (plastic) wrap. Spray lightly with cooking spray
  4. Spray a baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  5. Press the quinoa mixture into the measuring cup, level, and flip the "cake" onto the prepared baking pan. There should be enough quinoa mixture to make 8 or 9 cakes.
  6. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the quinoa cakes. Cook, flipping once, about 2 to 3 minutes per side, until they begin to brown and get crisp. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside.

Dressing for the Salad

Combine the following ingredients in a small bowl:

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1 tablespoons half and half or whipping cream
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

How to Assemble the Salad

Combine the following in a large bowl:

  • 1 8-oz package pre-washed spinach
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives
  • 1 cup diced zucchini
  • 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese (can substitute feta, mizithra, or queso fresco)

Divide the mixture among 4 salad plates. Top each with 2 quinoa cakes. Drizzle with the salad dressing.

© 2013 Linda Lum


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