Baked quinoa cakes with a creamy basil yogurt sauce are a healthy and delicious appetizer. Dried tart cherries and pistachios add a hint of sweetness and crunch. Thank you to Choose Cherries for helping me to share this recipe with you..
My husband is the most dedicated “night before” meal-maker I know. Every night he puts together a container of leftovers for his lunch and Greek yogurt with berries and whole wheat bread with peanut butter for his snacks. But it’s the bowl of cereal that is the real work of art. Raisin bran and GoLean cereals are topped off with scoops of chia seeds and ground flax meal and a handful of raw nuts and dried tart cherries. It’s a nutritionist’s dream in a bowl!
Of course, he has to actually get his hands on the dried cherries before the kids eat all of them. They get a kick out of smashing them together with raw cashews and tossing them into the air, attempting to catch them in their waiting mouths…like a couple of baby birds.
Amidst all of this cherry-tossing behavior, I choose to keep quiet on the health benefits of this sweet and tart snack. The kids don’t need to know that tart cherries are a natural source of melatonin, which helps to regulate sleep patterns. They’d probably think I was trying to “regulate” their bedtime to half an hour earlier. Shhh…that will be our secret.
As much as I appreciate the effects of natural melatonin supplies, I am even more swayed by recent studies that indicate that the powerful antioxidants in cherries can play a role in reducing inflammation. As someone who has arthritis running in her gene pool, that is very good news. In fact, it makes me want to join in on the cashew-cherry tossing game.
The vain side of me (you know, the one that causes me to suck my stomach in every time I pass a mirror…tell me I’m not the only one) jumps for joy when I hear that the cardiovascular benefits related to cherries includes loss of belly fat, which is the type of fat most commonly associated with heart disease. My body shape is an “apple” through and through, so belly fat is something that I have to watch, especially as I get older and that belly stubbornly wants to stick around.
Now, let’s get down to the recipe. We use quinoa in every which way in our house, from chicken quinoa soup to turkey zucchini quinoa meatballs. We even freeze the protein-packed grain so that we can use it at a moment’s notice.
One thing I had never done was to make quinoa patties or cakes. And now that I see how easy and delicious they are, I’m wondering what took me so long.
The base recipe comes from Heidi Swanson’s wonderful blog, 101 Cookbooks. I made significant changes to the flavor and texture by add some crunch with chopped pistachios and tart sweetness with a handful of dried cherries. Each quinoa cake is topped with a dollop of basil yogurt sauce, which has a garlicky kick and light herbal flavor.
If you prefer, pan-fry the quinoa cakes in a skillet with a teaspoon or so of olive oil. Either way, you will get a crisp, golden brown crust that belies the tender, moist insides of the cake.
Other recipes with dried cherries:
Cookin’ Canuck’s Dried Cherry & Orange Cranberry Sauce
Cookin’ Canuck’s Glazed Lemon & Dried Cherry Quick Bread
Carrot or Cake’s Farro & Celery Salad with Ricotta Salata, Walnuts & Dried Sour Cherries
Carrie’s Experimental Kitchen’s Sauteed Spinach with Dried Cherries
Cooking & Beer’s Crispy Duck Salad with a Dried Cherry Compote
- 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup finely chopped basil
- ⅛ tsp salt
- ¾ cup quinoa, rinsed well
- 2 cups water
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
- 3 green onions, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ cup shelled pistachios, chopped
- ⅓ cup dried tart cherries
- 3 tbsp crumbled feta cheese
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground pepper
- Water, if needed
- In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, basil and salt.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the quinoa and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the water is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork, spread on a baking sheet and let cool.
- In a medium bowl, combine the 2 ½ cups of the cooked quinoa, eggs, breadcrumbs, green onions, garlic, pistachios, cherries, feta cheese, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
- The mixture should be fairly moist so they don't dry out when baking, but not too moist so that the cakes fall apart. Use extra water if the cakes are not moist enough.
- Using ¼ cup (packed) per quinoa cake, shape the quinoa mixture into a ¾-inch thick bake and place on the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake until the quinoa cakes are golden brown on the bottom, 12 to 15 minutes. Carefully turn over and cook for 5 more minutes.
- Serve with the basil yogurt sauce.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Choose Cherries . All opinions expressed are my own.