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quinoa cakes with eggplant-tomato ragu and mozzarella

October 31, 2011

I know, I know, this totally sounds like something that should only be served at Woodstock. But seriously, have you ever tried quinoa? It’s pretty much the greatest grain ever. It’s nutty and slightly crunchy and relatively good for you–and if you get the pre-rinsed kind, even easier and quicker than rice! We’re basically obsessed with it.

Which means that we’re always open to new ways of eating it, despite the fact that “quinoa cakes” is not really the most appetizing phrase in the world. But you know what? These were actually really yummy, even without too many fancy additions to the cakes themselves. They provided a nice, earthy balance to the veggies–and obviously, the cheese was key for me.

Plus, they’re super, super-filling. Chris sauteed up some chicken to go with them because we don’t really believe in meals without meat, but I could barely manage two bites of the chicken after downing these puppies. Cheap (ginormous bag of quinoa = best BJ’s find yet), filling meals FTW!

Quinoa Cakes with Eggplant-Tomato Ragu and Mozzarella
Ingredients:
CAKES
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup quinoa
1 large egg, lightly beaten
4 to 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
TOPPING
1 1/2 lb. eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes [we actually used a can of diced tomatoes we had leftover, drained], halved
1/2 cup drained bottled roasted red peppers, rinsed and chopped [I left these out because peppers have cooties]
3/4 cup water or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced

Directions:
1. Bring water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to boil in a heavy medium saucepan.
2. Meanwhile, wash quinoa in 3 changes of water in a bowl, then drain well in a fine-mesh sieve. [Unless your quinoa is pre-washed–in which case, you can do a happy dance instead.]
3. Stir quinoa into boiling water and return to a boil, then simmer, covered, until quinoa is dry and water is absorbed, 20 to 30 minutes. [Check your quinoa package to make sure it doesn’t cook in drastically less time, like ours.] Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes, then stir in egg.
4. Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap and lightly brush with oil. Lightly oil a 1/3-cup dry measure. Tightly  pack enough quinoa into measure with a rubber spatula to fill it. (If spatula becomes sticky, dip in water.) Unmold onto baking sheet and gently pat quinoa into a 4-inch-wide patty with spatula. Make 4 more quinoa cakes, brushing measure with oil each time. Chill cakes, uncovered, at least 15 minutes.
5. Toss eggplant with 1 teaspoon salt in a colander and drain 30 minutes. Squeeze handfuls of eggplant to extract liquid, then pat dry.
6. Cook eggplant, onion, garlic, oregano, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and water or broth and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until eggplant is very tender and mixture is thick (if dry, thin with a little water), about 10 minutes.
7. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Carefully add quinoa cakes and cook, turning once carefully and adding remaining 2 to 3 tablespoons oil, until crisp and golden, about 3-5 minutes per side (pat cakes to reshape with clean rubber spatula while cooking if necessary). After turning, place a mozzarella round on each cake. Transfer to plates.
8. To serve, spoon ragu over quinoa cakes, then sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Source: Love and Olive Oil

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