I used to loathe quinoa.
The foreign texture and lack of flavor was only highlighted by the ever faint taste of dirt, quite honestly. The only thing I could find redeeming about it was saying the word quinoa (keeeenwaaa). It’s a fun thing for me. I don’t get out much.
However, like most foods, it’s all about the technique used to cook it that makes it terrible or amazing. The package directions forget to tell you that quinoa naturally (for the most part) tastes like nothing and yes, maybe even a little bit like dirt. However, if you cook quinoa in a delicious liquid, the quinoa will absorb the that deliciousness and become delicious itself, much like rice. So, cook your quinoa in something delicious (like vegetable stock with mushroom and shallot and roasted squash – yum!) and it will be delicious. I promise you. Whoever is in charge of the quinoa package should really add that little tip to the back of box.
Then once you’re on the quinoa band wagon along with all the other foodies, you will have to make the always spectacular quinoa cakes. These roasted pumpkin quinoa cakes with aromatics and sage butter are outstanding. My love of quinoa is now trumped only by quinoa cakes. The inviting dark golden brown crispy exterior and adorable presentation are upstaged solely by their flavor. You take a bite and an explosion of savory herbed aromatics and browned butter magnify the delicious autumnal flavor of warm roasted pumpkin. It’s astonishingly delicious and perfectly, seasonally, vegetarian.
Savory Pumpkin Quinoa Cakes
Note: The quinoa needs to be cooked in (store bought or homemade) quality, seasonal vegetable stock.
- 2 cups seasoned cooked quinoa
- 1 cup seasoned roasted pumpkin
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup minced onion
- 1/4 cup minced carrot
- 1/4 cup minced celery
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon rubbed sage
- pinch of dried rosemary and thyme (optional)
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- your favorite oil, for pan frying
Mix quinoa, pumpkin and eggs in a bowl, and set aside. Heat a nonstick pan over low heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, butter, sage, rosemary, thyme and cayenne to the pan. Lightly season with salt and pepper and cover to sweat out the vegetables and let the flavors combine. Once vegetables are soft and fragrant, remove the lid and turn heat to medium to lightly brown the butter and onions.
Once golden brown, add to the quinoa mixture, mixing vigorously so you don’t cook the eggs. Continue to mix until mixture is tempered. Add oil to a pan over medium heat. Drop rounded tablespoons onto sizzling oil and cook the cakes on each side until brown and cooked through. Serve warm.