Quinoa is one of those nutritionally dense super foods that you either love; hate, or have never tried. A few years ago, quinoa came onto the culinary scene in a big way and is now found everywhere and in everything from appetizers to desserts.
Quinoa (pronounced “Keen-wah” not “kin-no-wa” as my mom says) is a flowering plant with edible seeds originally found in the Andean region of South America. Although the seeds have been cultivated and grown as a grain crop for thousands of years it has only been grown in the USA since 1983.
As a crop, quinoa is not a true cereal grass like wheat, corn, rice and oats — but is a non-grass pseudo-cereal like buckwheat and amaranth and is gluten free. Nutritionally quinoa’s biggest claim to fame is that it is the only plant based food that provides all nine essential amino acids, making it a source of complete protein (perfect for vegetarian and vegan diets).
You can find quinoa in almost any grocery store in white, red or black varieties, as well as, packaged blends and mixes. There is even quinoa flour for gluten free baking.
For the novice, it is important to note that quinoa seeds have a natural pest deterrent coating that contains bitter tasting saponins. Most commercially processed quinoa have been treated to remove this coating but it can still taste bitter unless you thoroughly rinse the seeds before cooking. Another trick is to lightly toast the seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until they just start to brown and get a nice toasty aroma — then cook in boiling water per package directions (my son swears by this method).
My own journey with quinoa started a few years back while attempting to find the right diet to combat my wife’s many food sensitivities. Because of her needs, our family stopped eating food containing gluten, yeast, dairy, sugars, and starchy foods like potatoes, corn, and rice. So it was suggested we try quinoa as a substitute for grains and potatoes. Before that time I had never eaten quinoa and really only heard of it as a “health food.”
Since then, I have made quinoa a regular part of our weekly menu and have used it in dozens of recipes. Quinoa can be a great gluten free replacement for breadcrumbs in meatloaf or meatballs — or a stand-in for rice in casseroles and stuffed peppers. Cooked in water or broth quinoa makes a delicious side for entrees and can be served under ragouts or braised items instead of rice or couscous. I’ve even used quinoa instead of bulgar to make a passable tabbouleh salad.
However, my favorite way to enjoy quinoa is to make these wonderful pan-fried patties as a side dish. Similar to a latke (potato pancake) or fritter, these quinoa patties are crispy on the outside and tender and savory on the inside. They are a perfect addition to grilled meats or broiled fish or can stand alone as a light meal alongside a green salad.
Dan’s Quinoa Patties
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Serves: makes 10-12 patties
3 cups Cooked Quinoa – cooled to room temp
1 (10 oz) pkg Frozen Chopped Spinach – thawed & squeezed out
1/2 cup Finely Chopped Sweet Onion (like Vidalia)
3 Whole Eggs – beaten
1/4 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
2 TBS Flour (regular or gluten free)
1 tsp Italian Herb Seasoning
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
Olive Oil as needed for pan frying
1. Cook 1 cup quinoa in 2 cups water or broth per package directions (about 15 minutes). Pour cooked quinoa onto a large plate, spread out and let cool to room temperature.
2. Thaw frozen chopped spinach (use the microwave) and place in a strainer and squeeze as much water out as possible.
3. In a large mixing bowl combine the Italian seasoning, salt, garlic, pepper and flour – whisk together. Add cooled quinoa, spinach, chopped onion, eggs, and Parmesan cheese to the bowl and combine thoroughly. Using about 3/4 cup of quinoa mixture hand-form 10-12 small patties 3″ round x 1/2″ thick.
4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add 2 TBS olive oil to hot pan and swirl to coat, lay patties in the pan about 1/2″ apart (cook in batches if needed). Cook patties undisturbed for about 6-8 minutes. Turn over and press down slightly with a spatula. Allow to cook undisturbed for another 5-6 minutes until patties are deep brown, crisp outside, and firm in the middle. Remove from pan and place on parchment lined plate and keep warm until all patties are done and ready to serve.
5. Serve the patties alone or as a side dish (they are really good topped with a little Greek yogurt or sour cream mixed with some sriracha sauce).
There you have it, my recipe for Quinoa Patties. A great protein packed, nutrient dense, and delicious addition to your next meal. I have used grated zucchini, or finely chopped broccoli instead of the spinach… and even grated carrot or sweet potato for a brighter taste. I hope you enjoy this recipe and if you haven’t tried quinoa yet — give it a chance and I think you’ll learn to really enjoy this versatile “super food.”
Happy Father’s Day to any of my readers that are dads. I’m forever grateful for my dad, Vinnie Lista, who was a strong influence in my life especially teaching me to appreciate great food and giving me the experience and skills to create and cook the great recipes I feature on this blog. Thanks Dad… you are always in my heart.
Until next time remember, “The Sauce Makes the Difference!”