Quinoa patties that will win skeptics over

Quinoa cakes with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes.
Quinoa cakes with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes.PHOTO: DEB LINDSEY FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON (THE WASHINGTON POST) - A funny thing happens every time I see a new quinoa recipe. I think: Maybe this will be the one!

You know, the one that ultimately persuades me to make this protein-rich grain (technically a seed) part of my weeknight rotation.

Sure, I have dabbled here and there, and as a self-confessed quinoa skeptic, I have come to know which ways work best for me and my palate. Mostly, that has consisted of combining the quinoa with a larger grain, toasting it for a topping or putting it in soups and stews.

Previously, one of my favourite recipes was a quinoa and barley cake; the presence of that larger grain made up for the little stick-in-your-teeth quality that sometimes bugs me so much about quinoa. But when I saw another recipe for quinoa cakes in the new America's Test Kitchen book, Cooking at Home With Bridget and Julia, I knew I had to try it, because I was confident that Bridget Lancaster and Julia Collin Davison would not possibly steer me wrong.

This is one of Davison's recipes, and the secret is all the good stuff she adds to the cooked quinoa, not only to hold it together (there is bread and egg for that), but also to flavour it: sun-dried tomatoes, lemon zest and juice, Parmesan and more.

There is a good dose of chopped baby spinach leaves to give it more colour and heft, too.

After forming the mixture into patties, you refrigerate them for at least an hour to help them firm up, making them easier to pan-fry.

  • Quinoa Cakes With Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

  • 4 servings
    MAKE AHEAD: The cooked quinoa can be refrigerated for up to 5 days before making the cakes. The assembled cakes need to be refrigerated for at least 1 hour or up to 1 day in advance (to firm up). Cooked, they can be refrigerated for up to 1 week; reheat them in a low-temperature skillet or oven, if desired.

  • Ingredients

    1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped, plus 1 Tbs of their oil
    4 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped (white and green parts)
    4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    2 cups water
    1 cup pre-rinsed quinoa
    1 tsp sea salt
    2 slices hearty white sandwich bread
    1 large egg plus 1 large yolk, beaten together
    1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest plus 2 tsp juice (from 1 lemon)
    2 cups baby spinach, chopped
    1 cup (about 57g) Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
    2 Tbs vegetable oil
    1/2 cup regular, low-fat or non-fat plain Greek-style yogurt, for serving

  • Method

    1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
    2. Heat the tablespoon of oil from the sun-dried tomatoes in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the scallions and cook until softened, 3 to 5 minutes.
    3. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the water, quinoa and salt. Once the water starts bubbling, cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the quinoa is tender, 16 to 18 minutes.
    4. Remove from the heat and let the quinoa sit, covered, until the liquid is fully absorbed, about 10 minutes. Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl and let it cool for at least 15 minutes.
    5. Meanwhile, tear the bread into large pieces. Pulse them in a food processor about 10 times, or until coarsely ground. Add the beaten egg/yolk and the lemon zest; pulse about 5 times, or just until the mixture comes together. Transfer to the bowl with the cooled quinoa and stir it in, along with the sun-dried tomatoes, lemon juice, spinach and cheese, until thoroughly combined.
    6. To divide the mixture into 8 equal portions, use a spatula to first press it evenly into the bowl, then "cut" it into 8 wedges, scooping each one out as you work.) Pack each portion firmly to form a 1/2-inch-thick (1.3cm) cake that is about 3 1/2 inches (9cm) wide. Arrange them on the lined baking sheet as you work. Cover and refrigerate the cakes for at least 1 hour, and up to 24 hours.
    7. Heat 1 Tbs of the vegetable oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Gently lay in four of the cakes and cook until well-browned on the first sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Use a flexible spatula to gently turn them over; cook until golden brown on the second sides, 5 to 7 minutes.
    8. Transfer them to a serving platter and tent with aluminium foil (to keep them warm). Return the skillet to medium-low heat and repeat with the remaining 1 Tbs vegetable oil and remaining four cakes.
    9. Serve with yogurt dolloped on top, or on the side.

They are still a little delicate to flip, but it is nothing a flexible spatula and a little room in the skillet cannot manage, and the result is, they get nice and crisp on the outside.

Davison includes a recipe for a cucumber-yogurt sauce to go with them, but I took an easier route and just dolloped plain Greek yogurt on top. The next day, when I went back for leftovers, I realized just how good a recipe this is: The cakes are even better cold, which makes them that much more versatile. I think I found the one.

Adapted from Cooking at Home With Bridget and Julia by Bridget Lancaster, Julia Collin Davison and the editors at America's Test Kitchen (America's Test Kitchen, 2017).

Nutrition | Per serving: 350 calories, 10 g protein, 36 g carbohydrates, 20 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 100 mg cholesterol, 690 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fibre, 3 g sugar