This meal, believe it or not, was the result of one of those times when we were faced with a pantry full of what seemed to be random crap that couldn’t possibly be put together. We had some canned tuna and some quinoa, but no clear idea of what to do with it–until we discovered this recipe from Ina Garten for Salmon Cakes…and decided to make some quick substitutions. While I’m sure salmon would be great in this, the tasty variety of veggies in them (including capers, peppers, onions, and celery) would make just about anything taste amazing, so I say give your wallet a break and just open a couple cans of tuna. The preparation does take a bit of time, but trust me when I tell you that it’s worth it. I won’t describe it in full here (Ina does a great job herself at the link), but I will say that if you’re looking for something cheap and quick, this isn’t it. But hey, we can’t have it all, all the time.
On the other hand, it’s delicious. Did I mention that? The cakes are especially amazing paired with this citrus-y quinoa, which is also one of my favorites (adapted from an old issue of Vegetarian Times). Here’s how you do it:
Take 1 cup of quinoa, and wash it in a sieve for a few minutes. Make sure not to skip this step; quinoa in its natural state has a weird flavor that will distract from the amazing dressing described below if you don’t wash it off. Cook the quinoa according to the package directions–usually this means a 1:2 ratio of quinoa to boiling water cooked for 15-20 minutes, just like rice. Make sure to salt the water.
While the quinoa is going, get everything ready to be tossed with it. Finely chop the following:
- 1/4-1/2 cup shallots or red onion
- 1/2 cup dried apricots (you can sub golden raisins, or whatever you like as a dried fruit)
- 1/3 cup sliced almonds, preferably toasted
- a handful of parsely
- a few mint leaves, if you have them
- The wedges cut out of one peeled orange (without pith)
Then, make the dressing in a big bowl. Whisk together the following:
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. coriander
- 1/4-1/2 tsp sugar (depending on how sweet your orange juice is)
- a pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup (or a bit less) of extra virgin olive oil
When your quinoa is done and has cooled a bit, toss it with the dressing and the dried fruit. Allow to cool a bit more, then add in the rest of the ingredients. Let the quinoa sit a bit (preferably covered) while you or your cooking partner finish frying up the tuna cakes. To serve, top the quinoa with a cake (or two!).
I think the savory, rich, vinegar-y flavor of the tuna cakes pairs incredibly well with the sweet-and-sour-yet-nutty flavor of the quinoa. The textures are also incredible: the fish cakes get a lovely crispy crust on the outside, while remaining warm and soft on the inside. I think this compliments the quinoa nicely, which is chewy, but enhanced with bursts of orange juice (from the cut-out wedges) and crunchy bits of almond and onion. If these were a bit easier to make, I’d probably be eating them all the time…so we should probably be grateful that they aren’t, since tuna cakes aren’t exactly low fat. They are, however, a great weekend treat–and surprisingly cheap to make, if you have the right things hanging out in the pantry.