vegan quinoa cakes with cucumber-mango salsa


I like quinoa. I do. I didn't use to, though: at all. In fact, if you Google "quinoa tastes like ..." you will come across a plethora of fill-in-the-blanks (my all time favorite being this) that make me snicker knowingly. For my PAST, people, for my past. Because quinoa and I are like this now (you know, crossed fingers) and this super-grain has worked its way into our meal plan at least once a week. Why? Well, for one thing it's super-convenient. It's ready in about 10-15 minutes, which is perfect for a busy day where mustering the energy to cook seems tough. (I'm not there yet, though winter brings me painfully close to it.) It is also a pretty blank canvas as far as flavor profile, despite accusations of it being like soap or grass, leaving it open to pretty much endless possibilities for adaptation. You can make it sweet, savory, spicy. Quinoa is pretty chill. It will adjust.

So imagine my delight when I came across this version of eating quinoa in such an unexpected way: a griddle cake. Sure, I'm totally down with the quinoa bowl, any variety of beans, rice, roasted veggies, herbs. But this was entirely new, which is of course why you try anything, right?

For this recipe, with a few adjustments, you will need:

1 cup quinoa, cooked and cooled
1/4 cup rice flour
2 flax eggs (I KNOW: WHAT? Don't worry, it's not that weird. A flax egg isn't really an egg at all, but rather a vegan egg substitute that has the same binding properties as an actual egg. You mix 1 tablespoon of ground flaxmeal with 2 tablespoons of water. That mixture equals one egg, so repeat for the second. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes, or until its achieved a congealed, egg-like texture. Pretty crazy, but it totally works. If you don't care about these being vegan and you aren't about to buy a bag of flax meal, just use two regular eggs.)
3 tablespoons water or vegetable broth
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

For the salsa:

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 medium mango, cubed
1 medium tomato, diced
1 medium avocado, diced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Juice of half a lemon
Olive oil
1-2 tablespoons of Greek yogurt for topping (optional)
Dash of Sriacha chile sauce or other hot sauce (optional)

To begin, chop your salsa fruits and veggies and combine in a small bowl, excluding the green onion. Mix together with lemon juice and olive oil (a little salt and pepper is good here, too) and set aside.

For your quinoa, you can cook this as you would normally up to a day or two before. Just seal and refrigerate until you're ready to use. In a medium bowl, combine your quinoa, rice flour, spices, water/broth and flax eggs. Allow to sit for a minute or two so that the quinoa and rice flour soak up the liquid. The mixture should be pretty sticky, but that's what you want in order for it to hold together.

Preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Coat evenly with canola or another oil. Using a medium-large spoon, scoop your quinoa mixture onto your pan. Using a spatula or other flipping utensil, press each scoop down until it resembles a flat, pancake shape. Cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until golden and crisp.

Serve immediately topped with your fresh salsa, green onions, a bit of Greek yogurt or chile sauce. You may never go back to quinoa bowls again.