Quinoa Cakes With A Farmer’s Market Riot – Recipe


On the way home from the farmer's market, Sarina and I joked that I wouldn't be able to resist playing with the molecular gastronomy toys, turning the zucchini into gel, the tomatoes into powder, spherifying the cukes and making the corn into a tableside sorbet with liquid nitrogen. But it was just a joke. With ingredients this good, and the weather this hot, it would be a crime to do much more than tie them all together with some big, bright flavors and a good beer.

So we have: quinoa cakes, spicy roasted corn relish, pan-fried zucchini, beefsteak tomato and cucumber salad, and a simple chimichurri sauce to marry them all up. The components are summer dynamite together, but any one of them could be a good side dish in a different meal, so feel feel free to mix and match.

By the way, can I mention that apparently almost no-one realizes how good zucchini is when pan-fried in a single layer? I like zucchini lots of ways – sauteed, lightly steamed, grated even… but when allowed a lot of surface area and a hot flame, it develops this completely different nutty / caramelized flavor that is addictive.

I hate to be cruel, but I have to tell you that for dessert we had strawberry shortcake, with two quarts of berries also from the market, fresh baked biscuits, and Sea Breeze Farm cream.

Quinoa Cakes with a Farmer's Market Riot
Serves 4
Vegetarian and gluten-free; vegan if you use an egg-replacer in the cakes

For the chimichurri (or see this other, slightly embellished version):

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped fine or pressed
  • 1 cup well-rinsed flat-leaf parsley leaves, lightly packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1.5 teaspoons sherry vinegar or lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a mini food processor and process until it forms a thin sauce, kind of like a pesto without the nuts or cheese to hold it together. You might need more oil to get it pureed. Taste and adjust seasonings and allow to rest so the flavor can develop.

For the quinoa cakes:

  • 2 cups leftover quinoa, or 1 cup rinsed, cooked normally, and allowed to cool
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or leaves from a couple stems of fresh oregano, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • canola oil

Combine all ingredients except the oil. You should have a "dough" that you can form a wet ball with. If it is still dry and fluffy, add another egg. Bring your largest skillet, or better a flat griddle pan up to medium high heat. Add a thin layer of oil. Using about 1/4 cup each time, form pancakes and flatten on to the pan. They should only be about 1/4" thick. Cook on one side until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes, then flip and finish other side. Remove and season with salt and pepper.

For the cucumber and tomato salad:

  • 1 medium cucumber, seeded and cut into medium dice
  • 1 ripe beefsteak tomato, medium dice
  • salt to taste

Combine all ingredients. You wanna put a little minced red onion in there, it is ok with me.

For the spicy corn relish:

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 2 teaspoons (or more, to your taste) red chili flakes
  • 2 ears corn, shucked and kernels removed from stem
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • zest of one lemon and 1 tablespoon of the juice

Heat a saute pan over a high flame. Add the oil, onion and chili flakes and cook about 1 minute, until the onion starts to color a little. Add the corn and salt and saute for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest and juice. Taste and adjust seasonings.

For the pan-fried zucchini:

  • 4 small zucchini, cut into 1/4" thick slabs, patted dry
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • sea salt
  • pepper

Heat oil in a large frying pan over a high flame. Lay in the zucchini in a single layer and don't crowd the pan. (You can do a couple batches if necessary). Cook until quite a lot of brown spots are forming on the first side, then flip and do the same. Remove and season with sea salt and black pepper. You may wish to cut the slabs smaller at this point.

To serve:

In each bowl, spoon in a couple tablespoons of sauce or more. Top with two of the quinoa cakes, and nice piles of the zucchini, corn relish and salad. Garnish with a bit more of the sauce, or parsley or cilantro leaves.

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Posted by Michael Natkin on Monday, July 13th, 2009 in Gluten-Free or modifiable, Kid Friendly, Main Courses, Recipes, Vegan or Modifiable.

17 Responses to “Quinoa Cakes With A Farmer’s Market Riot – Recipe”

  1. Reply
    July 13, 2009 at 1:31 pm #

    Yum, looks awesome!

  2. Reply
    July 13, 2009 at 5:24 pm #

    Healthy and delicious! What a beautiful dish too!

  3. Reply
    July 13, 2009 at 8:11 pm #

    This was fantastic – it was great timing for you to post this today, as I wanted to make something with quinoa anyway. So a quick stop at Pike Place on my way home, and Joelle and I were quite happy with the results!

    Quinoa is such an interesting grain; I would love to see some of your other uses you recommend.

  4. Reply
    July 14, 2009 at 3:55 am #

    Thanks for the recipe! We’ve just discovered quinoa and are looking for various ways to prepare it. This looks delicious.

  5. Reply
    July 17, 2009 at 1:44 am #

    This was absolutely delicious!!! My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed it and ate way too much of it. I think it might be addictive. 😉

  6. Reply
    July 20, 2009 at 4:55 am #

    Molecular gastronomy sounds fascinating! But I’m glad you didn’t deface the farmers market food 🙂 I’ve never heard of quinoa cakes, but it sounds like a great way to use up the leftovers.

  7. Reply
    August 1, 2009 at 5:37 am #

    Cute preface! Looks gorgeous, as always! I’m looking forward to catching up with your blog after being away for a month – love it 🙂

  8. Reply
    June 3, 2010 at 11:35 am #

    I am only getting to this now but I LOVE the idea of quinoa cakes – what a revelation! Quinoa is one of my favorite grain protein sources, but I’ve always felt a little limited with the texture and types of dishes I could make with it. This opens up a whole new world. Thank you, thank you.

  9. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    June 3, 2010 at 11:41 am #

    Thanks, Lauren! It turns out just about any grain, and even pasta, is amenable to be turned into pan-fried cakes just by binding them with a little egg. I make them all the time because they are just so tasty and you can use up leftovers. You can vary them by including herbs, spices, onions, garlic, cheese and so forth.

  10. Reply
    July 27, 2010 at 9:10 am #

    My favorite variation of quinoa cakes is by adding goat cheese into the cakes themselves. Top with oven roasted tomatoes and it’s heaven!

  11. Reply
    September 5, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    These are great!! First time I made them I did and had trouble keeping them from falling apart. This time I formed the cake, spritzed with EVOO and used the broiler on high for 6 minute on each side. It worked AWESOME!!!

  12. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    September 5, 2010 at 3:15 pm #

    Thanks Theresa! Interesting variation on how to cook them. Another option if they aren't quite holding up is to add a bit of flour, rice flour, or breadcrumbs to provide a little more binding. There is enough egg in there that they should hold up well, so another problem can be if you don't give them enough time on the first side for the egg to set. But as always, the main thing is that you figured out the best way to troubleshoot for your particular ingredients!


  13. Reply
    January 26, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    Made a vegan version of the quinoa cakes for dinner tonight. I used Ener-G egg replacer instead of egg and that worked pretty well to bind things together. The smoked paprika added an awesome (although a little bit overpowering) flavor. Mine were bright red, wondering why the ones in the photo aren’t…? Really liked these overall though, thanks for a great recipe!

  14. Reply
    January 27, 2012 at 8:33 am #

    Gotta try these. Re the Zucchini: a great variant is to get small ones — about 5 inches long — cut them in half so you have two 5″ strips, and pan-fry them, hot, in a little olive oil, finishing with a squeeze of lemon, which caramelizes on the hot pan and does wonderful things to the flavor. If your zucchini are bigger, you can pre-cook the slices for a minute or so in the microwave, avoiding the nicely-browned-and-caramelized-outside-but-raw-inside problem.

    • Reply
      January 27, 2012 at 8:54 am #

      Yes! Cooking zucchini that way almost makes into a completely different vegetable, and so delicious.

  15. Reply
    May 29, 2012 at 12:32 pm #

    We had people over for dinner Saturday, so I made these quinoa cakes to ensure that I had some protein in the meal (My husband made pork tenderloin.) I deviated slightly in the making of the cakes, and used rosemary, parsley, and lemon to give the cakes some flavor. I served one large cake on top of a bed of fresh spinach, and then topped it with a sauteed mixture of mushrooms, roasted red pepper, and garlic, seasoned with more rosemary, lavender and sea salt. It turned out splendid and looked amazing on the plates as well.

    Michael, this is a great way to use quinoa in something other than a “Quinoa Salad.” Thanks for the idea!!

    • Reply
      May 29, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

      Thanks, Theresa! Glad you liked it – and you can apply that same approach to just about any leftover grain, from freekeh to millet.

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