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Recipe #356: "Polenta-Style" Quinoa Cakes with Mushroom Ragù

Posted Apr 25 2013 6:18pm

Below was today's lunch, and wow, was it was deceptively filling! I could only eat 2 cakes, and let me tell you, I have a sizable appetite. Just ask my friends and family. :) Thank goodness I work out a lot. Lol.

Today's my kung fu and gym day, so I don't have a lot of time to wax effusive about this recipe right now. Also, I'm pressing full speed ahead to meet the rapidly approaching deadline for The Athlete's Cookbook , which, of course, will include this recipe. Suffice it to say that this dish turned out well. Plus, I was able to type up the recipe in time and also complete the photo session without making myself late for class. Bonus. :) OK, enjoy the recipe.

Toodles,
-C


"Polenta-Style" Quinoa Cakes with Wild Mushroom Ragù

Quinoa Cake Ingredients:
1/2 c. quinoa, uncooked, thoroughly washed (to remove saponin), and drained (makes 1 c. cooked)
2 c. water (for cooking the quinoa)
1 c. almond meal, plus more for flouring surface for the cakes
1 c. Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/4 c. chèvre (soft goat cheese), crumbled
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (for sautéing quinoa cakes)

Ragù Ingredients:
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. shallots, peeled and finely minced (about 2 shallots)
1 1/2 Tbsp. garlic, peeled and finely minced (about 1 1/2 large cloves)
1 c. generic mushrooms, thinly sliced and then cut into bite-sized pieces
1 c. portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced and then cut into bite-sized pieces
1 c. shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced and then cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced
1 Tbsp. fresh sage leaves, finely minced
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1/4 c. marsala wine (or sherry, if unavailable)
1 Tbsp. fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/4 c. low-fat buttermilk (or unsweetened organic soy milk)

Directions: Make the quinoa cakes: Bring 2 c. of water to a rolling boil in a large sauce pot. Add quinoa and cook for 10 minutes. Allow to rest for 10 minutes (to cool to room temperature), then fluff with a fork. Drain into a mesh sieve and rinse with cold water under the kitchen faucet. Transfer cooled quinoa to a food processor, followed by all remaining quinoa cake ingredients, minus the olive oil, (which will be used later to sauté the cakes). Process until the quinoa is completely pulverized and all ingredients are fully incorporated. Dust a large plate with a generous amount of almond meal. Then break off a large chunk of dough about the size of a large matzo ball (about 1 3/4" in diameter) and roll into a ball with the palms of your hand. Then, with the palm of your hand, gently flatten the dough ball so that it's about 1/4" high, then shape and smooth the outer edges into a seamless disc. Place dough disc onto the almond meal "floured" plate. Repeat this process until all dough has been used up and you've made 8 uniformly sized cakes. Set aside.

Next, make the ragù: Heat olive oil on high heat until glistening, about 20-30 seconds, then reduce heat to low, add shallots and (fresh) garlic, and sauté for 2 minutes. Then add all of the mushrooms and immediately season with salt to help accelerate the moisture extraction process. Turn up heat to medium. Next, quickly add black pepper, rosemary, and sage and cook for 10 minutes, or until liquid has evaporated to a thin layer on the bottom of the pot, stirring occasionally. Stir in marsala to deglaze. Cook another 5 minutes, or until liquid has once again been reduced to a thin layer on the bottom of the pot. Add thyme and buttermilk and continue to cook until liquid has been reduced by at least three quarters, about 5 more minutes. In the final 1-2 minutes of cooking, add parsley. Remove from heat and set aside.

Grill and assemble the quinoa cakes: Heat olive oil in a square grill pan on high heat until glistening, about 20-30 seconds, then reduce heat to medium-low, place 4 quinoa cakes into the pan and cook about 3 minutes per side. Place onto a clean plate and set aside. Then repeat the process for the next batch of 4 quinoa cakes. Divide up cakes into equal portions, transfer to plates, then top with ragù and serve.

Yield: 8 quinoa cakes, approximately 1/4' thick and 2 1/2" in diameter.

Chef's Notes: It's important to thoroughly wash quinoa to remove the saponin, which creates a bitter taste. This makes a huge difference in flavor and palatability. I've heard people say that quinoa tastes bitter, but really, it's because whoever prepared it for them probably didn't wash it first. :)

Also, be sure to thoroughly clean the mushrooms to remove any debris. The best way to do this is to soak them in a bowl of cold water for 15-20 minutes, then rinse them under cold water, washing them by hand.

You can buy almond meal at many, if not most, generic grocery stores these days. (Or at least you can in major cities.) I know for a fact that Whole Foods carries almond meal. It's a fairly neutral tasting "flour," which makes it the perfect canvas and/or binding agent for many different dishes, including this one. :)
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