A New Outlook

I bet you thought I would be all up in here with the “It’s cooooold. I don’t like it. I have to wear socks. It’s rainy. wahwahwahhhhhh and such…”. And honestly, given the state of my last 10 or so posts, I’d say you have every right to think that. I complained a lot this summer. About the weather. About being busy. About the weather… but you mark my words, I will never ever EVER complain about fall. It is the most welcomed thing in my life (not counting a cold beer and a back massage…but, come on) and I greet it every year with a smile, a warm embrace and a new outlook on dinner.

Braised everything. Roasted everything. Stewed everything. Slow-cooked everything.

You can imagine with this new outlook, that keeping the spare tire off my mid section can sometimes be a challenge. All I want is rich, hearty, brown flavours (brown is a flavour. Just ask Anne Burrell).  This can quickly become a problem.

This year I’ve decided I need some new recipes in my repertoire that are rich, flavourful and satisfying… but also keep the butter and carbs to a minimum. Mostly. On weekends. Post 5pm. When I’m not out for dinner.

This recipe came from Gourmet magazine. It’s brilliant. The ragu is really delicious. Honest. But it pales in comparison to the quinoa cakes. The concept is so brilliant. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it myself (answer: I was busy eating mashed potatoes) sooner. They are flavourful but still neutral enough to go with whatever you want to serve them with. You can add whatever spices/flavours you want to make them your own.
I did them with the ragu but I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to pair them with black beans or under a salad to make it more filling and add some protein.

As I’m sure you all know, quinoa (pronounced "keen-wa" for those who are like me and embarassingly called it ‘quin-oah’) is very good for you. It’s not only a protein but a whole protein, which means it contains all 9 essential amino acids. Last health note: Quinoa is a good source of magnesium which helps relax blood vessels and can be beneficial for those who suffer from migraines! Okok, back to delicious food! Make just the cakes with whatever you’d like, or try both! It’s healthy and packed with good stuff but filling and indulgent enough that you won’t miss your buttery potatoes or your creamy pasta. This makes great leftovers for lunch the next day, too!

Quinoa Cakes w. Tomato-Eggplant Ragu
adapted from Gourmet magazine

-The quinoa can be shaped and chilled one day in advance. 
- Feel free to remove onion powder/oregano and add your own favourite spices/flavours to the quinoa to make it your own

For quinoa cakes:
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup quinoa
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2tsp dried oregano (optional)
1/2tsp onion powder (optional)
1tsp salt
4 to 5 tablespoons veg/canola oil, divided

Make quinoa cakes:
Bring water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan.

Meanwhile, wash quinoa in 3 changes of water in a bowl, then drain well in a fine-mesh sieve.

Stir quinoa, oregano and onion powder into boiling water and return to a boil, then simmer, covered, until quinoa is dry and water is absorbed, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes, then stir in egg.

Fill 1/3C (that has been lightly oiled) with quinoa/egg mixture and pack in with your hands. Empty onto a foil-line baking sheet and pat into patties. Try to make them about the size of your spatula as if they are any bigger they will be hard to flip without falling apart. Make patties until all quinoa is gone. Chill cakes, uncovered, at least 15 minutes in the freezer.

While cakes are cooling…

Tomato-Eggplant Ragu

1 1/2 lb eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 anchovies (optional)
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4C black olives, pitted and chopped (optional)
few pinches red pepper flakes (optional)
3/4 cup water or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
shaved parmesan/smoked mozzarella/goat cheese (optional)

Put cubed eggplant in a colander and toss with 1tsp salt. Let sit for 30 minutes. Squeeze excess moisture out of eggplant with hands. Pat dry with paper towel.

Add 1tbsp olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan (with a lid) and let heat until shiny. Add onions and let saute until lightly browned. Add eggplant and let brown gently over medium heat.

Add remaining 2 tbsp olive oil. If using, add anchovies and let them melt into the eggplant/onions. Add chopped garlic and saute until fragrant. Add tomatoes, oregano, olives, red pepper flakes, and water or broth. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 20-30 minutes. When finished, add the chopped fresh parsley.

While the sauce is cooking, add 2 tbsp veg/canola oil to a non-stick skillet. Heat until shiny. Take the quinoa cakes out of the freezer. Add cakes, 2 at a time, and fry 5 minutes on each side until well browned. Be careful/delicate when lifting the patties. They will be hard to flip the first few times.

Top the cakes with ragu and cheese of your choice if using. I used a goat’s milk mozzarella but any of the options would be delicious. Esp the Gourmet suggested smoked mozzarella!

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