Working with seasonal ingredients affords me the opportunity to experiment and create constantly, making me one lucky girl, because I love that sorta thing. Mostly, I tap into my intuition about how foods behave and how flavors and textures play together, and I try to highlight the star fruit or vegetable in a simple and yummalicious way. Fortunately for my clients and me, the combination of those efforts usually yields very tasty results.
Sometimes though, I get an idea in my head and the execution of the dish doesn’t work out to my satisfaction the first time around. Or the second. Absurd, I know. That’s what happened with these swiss chard cakes.
I saw a recipe a while back for very easy swiss chard and garbanzo bean cakes in the Whole Living magazine that one of my sweet clients always passes along to me after she finishes reading it. I made the cakes (mostly) the way the recipe intended, but I was unimpressed by the texture of the final product. The outside kind of crisped up, but the inside was just mush. Over time, I revisited the concept of the chard cakes, adding sauteed veggies and utilizing panko and Parmesan cheese, and I still wasn’t blown away.
Then, of course, I decided to take the cakes to a gluten-free realm, to serve them as a side dish for my gluten-free clients. Playing with different flours and ratios, hand crushing garbanzo beans (OY!), and adding quinoa and interesting seeds to provide texture within the veggie patties finally garnered the reaction I’d been hoping for- which sounds something like, “Oh my gahhhh!! These are insanely delicious!”
That’s my idea of success!!!
On Monday night of this week, I represented Plan to Plate at a health and fitness event in Decatur. I was able to sponsor the event, giving away coupons and a big gift certificate for a raffle. The coordinator of Team Decatur encouraged me to pass out food samples as well. And what did I cook? You know it.
These labor-of-love, laundry list of ingredients, swiss chard quinoa cakes. The overwhelming feedback from the crowd, including little kids, was super positive. And everyone asked me for the recipe.
Sooooo- here it is, my friends. It’s not my typical simple style, and I am warning you ahead of time…these cakes are kind of a pain in the tuchus to make. However, when I am dripping with sweat from hand-turning a million of these little suckers in the 90 degree heat, wondering why on earth I put myself through all of the trouble- labeling myself insane and thinking that I have really gone overboard this time- the ooohing and ahhhhing from the peanut gallery reminds me of the reason. These little beauties are delicious. Addictive even.
It all begins here.
Ashli’s Swiss Chard and Quinoa Cakes
2 bunches swiss chard, ribs removed. Leaves rinsed, towel dried, and cut or torn into big chunks.
1/2 Cup black quinoa, soaked in cold water for 15 minutes
just over 2/3 Cup chicken or veggie broth (I keep decreasing the amount of broth I use to cook quinoa.)
2 cans garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 shallot, minced
1 Cubanelle pepper, minced (or use an anaheim pepper or other green pepper…)
6 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 eggs, beaten lightly
1/2 Cup quinoa flour (plus another couple T later, if necessary)
1/2 Cup almond meal (plus another T later, if necessary)
2 T sesame seeds
2 T flax seeds
juice of a juicy lemon
1 Cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Heat a small pan with a good drizzle of olive oil to medium. Add the shallot and pepper and a pinch of salt, and saute about 2 minutes, until just soft. Add the garlic, and stir to combine well. After 30 seconds or so, turn off the heat. Remove softened veggies to a bowl or plate to cool.
Heat a small pot with a drizzle of olive oil to medium high heat. Strain quinoa from the soaking water and add it to the oil carefully, as it may splatter. Add a pinch of salt and stir quinoa for about a minute. Then, add the broth and bring it up to a quick boil. Stir once more, reduce to a simmer, cover the pot, and let the quinoa absorb the liquid. This will take at least 20 minutes. When liquid is gone, turn cooked quinoa out into a bowl to cool.
In a food processor, combine HALF of the chickpeas with half of the swiss chard. Pulse to combine and break down. Then, move that mixture to a large bowl. Process the other half of the swiss chard and add it to the bowl. (DO NOT process the other half of the chick peas.) Nope, you want to smash those with your fingers or with a potato masher. I find my hands work best. You don’t want the beans to remain whole, as they disrupt the cakes’ cohesiveness. If you want to take off the garbanzo skins, you can. It’s time consuming…it’s okay to leave them on as well.
Once the quinoa and veggies are cool, add those to the big bowl of swiss chard and garbanzo beans. Add the remaining ingredients and season with a few serious pinches of salt and pepper. Then, use your hands to combine the ingredients thoroughly. I like this batter to feel like a good meatball does- not too wet, not dry at all- sticking together well.
Heat a nonstick pan with canola, vegetable, or grapeseed oil to medium heat. Make a little tester patty, about 3 inches in diameter, and cook it in the hot oil to brown it on both sides.
Remove the cake and the pan from the heat. Taste. Adjust your salt level. If it needs more zing, you can add another half a lemon juice. And- if your cakes are cracking or feel too wet, you can add another couple Tablespoons of Quinoa flour and another Tablespoon of almond flour. I find myself doing this just about every time. But, all swiss chard and veggies will have differing amounts of liquid, so you may not need the extra.
Then, fry off the rest of those babies, being patient as they brown, and adding more oil to the pan between batches as necessary. You will actually be able to feel the surface of the patty tighten up as it gets close to flipping time.
Remove them to a paper towel lined plate as they are browned.
Mmmmm. It is easy to down a good four of these cakes without blinking an eye. The chard provides a slight bitterness and tastes green! Quinoa offers quite the crunch when it’s cooked this way. I love the seeds and the pop of chick peas throughout. The Parmesan provides a savory and sharp twist. These little guys feel like a veggie burger gone right- a tricky venture, I’d say.
Serve as these cakes as a side dish substituting for a “starch”or as an appetizer with some yummy dipping sauce like Green Goddess. Once I served them with a bubblegum pink beet and tomato dipping sauce that was awesome. Or prepare a batch on a Sunday so you can munch on them throughout the week. They are a hearty, protein and veggie-loaded treat for your body and your belly.
I hope you enjoy these lovelies. They are worth the work.
Happy cooking and eating to you,