Crispy Baked Zucchini-Quinoa Cakes with Dill Yogurt Sauce
It wasn’t my favorite.
If you’re not familiar with TSA Pre✓, it’s that expedited airport security line for people with a fancy ID number on their boarding pass. In order to get said ID number, you need to fill out a bunch of paperwork and then go to the TSA offices to submit your application and be fingerprinted. Obviously, I would never have known anything about this (or cared), but Logan has been coveting a spot on that TSA Pre✓ list for years.
Ironically, if there were ever a person that could truly benefit from TSA Pre✓, it’s me because being with Logan in a crowded airport is an extra special brand of torture. When forced to stand in a security line, he sighs loudly at approximately 5-7 second intervals, sweats profusely, and repeats the following in a loud, angry voice: “DUDE, we’re going to miss our flight! I can’t believe this. Can you believe this??! Come on!” (Yes, “DUDE” in this scenario refers to me. Pet name, duh.)
Having missed many, many flights in my life, I cannot muster the type of apocalyptic rage/fear that Logan experiences at the airport. After all, I’m my mother’s daughter, and as she likes to say, “There’s always another flight.” (I once repeated this saying to Logan. Big mistake. HUGE.)
After a particularly close call this past weekend, Logan’s obsession with becoming a member of TSA Pre✓ escalated to the point that he actually downloaded the necessary documents and insisted that I accompany him on an excursion to Midtown to join this “badass club.”
As I melted in the unairconditioned TSA lobby at 8am, Logan practically glowed with excitement. “Are you psyched??! You’ll never have to take your shoes off in the airport again! Or take your computer out of your bag!!!” Based on his extreme level of enthusiasm about our future airport security experiences, you’d think he was telling me that Beyonce was going to wheel me through all TSA checkpoints on a mobile chaise longue while I drank champagne and sent emails. For real.
But while I couldn’t even begin to share Logan’s thrill at being officially deemed “a low-priority security threat,” I didn’t want to harsh his buzz, since I really do love when he gets PSYCHED about things. (It’s both hilarious and endearing.) So instead of complaining, I spent the morning with a big shit-eating grin on my face, fantasizing about the leftover Zucchini-Quinoa Cakes with Dill Yogurt Dressing in my fridge. I bet TSA has never seen a happier couple first thing on a Wednesday morning…
These beautiful babies really turned my day around. Crispy quinoa and zucchini patties with lots of salty feta dipped in a cooling, herbed yogurt sauce are guaranteed to tickle your taste buds, and by some miracle, they’re as nutritious as they are delicious. Baked not fried, these light, yet satisfying cakes are packed with protein, fiber, manganese, potassium, and plenty of antioxidants, making them the perfect feel-good meal or snack.
Plus, they’re not overly complicated, only require a handful of ingredients (most of which you should already have in your pantry/fridge), and the cakes can be prepped in advance and baked at your leisure.
And the versatility! They make a fabulous meal on their own with lots of yogurt sauce, but they’re equally amazing over a simple arugula salad, with an egg on top (they would be an insanely awesome base for Eggs Benedict), or alongside almost any meat or fish. And you could easily shrink them to the size of silver dollars to serve as adorable bite-size treats at your next fancy cocktail party. Whoop whooooop.
First and foremost, zucchini is absurdly watery, and you need to remove as much of its moisture as humanly possible or your cakes will definitely fall apart. Relax, all you have to do is wrap the grated zucchini in cheesecloth or a clean dishtowel and squeeze, but please be hardcore about it. Really use those muscles, people! (I did break a little sweat doing this, but I have very poor upper body strength, so you’ll probably be fine.)
Second, I made two slightly different versions of these bad boys, one using mashed chickpeas as a binder, and the other using 2 tablespoons of flour. The gluten-free chickpea cakes were slightly more dense à la bean-based veggie burgers, while the flour cakes were a bit lighter. Both were delightful, so you do you. I also recommend experimenting with different types of flour if you’re feeling particularly adventurous (chickpea, quinoa, whole wheat, amaranth, etc.).
Finally, even with all your zucchini squeezing, the mixture will be on the wetter side of things. Don’t panic, I promise they’ll firm up in the oven. If things are absolutely too wet to even try to mold (which shouldn’t happen, if you did the crazy squeezing like I asked), you can always add some more mashed chickpeas or a couple extra teaspoons of flour to the mix.
Are you PSYCHED?
Crispy Baked Zucchini-Quinoa Cakes with Dill Yogurt Sauce: (Serves 4)
1/3 cup uncooked quinoa
2 medium zucchini
½ cup canned chickpeas, drained, rinsed and mashed (OR 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour)
1/3 cup finely minced yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 scallions, white and light green parts only, finely chopped
Zest of 1 small lemon
2/3 cup crumbled feta or goat cheese (Feel free to use a whole cup if you’re really into cheese.)
1 large egg
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
For the Yogurt Sauce:
¾ cup non-fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, grated or very finely minced
Preparing your Crispy Baked Zucchini-Quinoa Cakes with Dill Yogurt Sauce:
-Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
-Start by cooking your quinoa. Place 1/3 cup quinoa in a small saucepan with 1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons water. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. Let the quinoa rest for 5-10 minutes covered, then fluff with a fork and let it cool to room temperature.
-Moving on to the zucchini! Using the large holes of a box grater, grate the zucchini into a colander set over a large bowl or in the sink. Sprinkle it with a pinch of salt and let it sit for about 15 minutes. This will help the zucchini release some of its water.
-While your zucchini is draining, place the chickpeas between two paper towels and rub gently so they release their skins.
-After 15 minutes, place the zucchini in a clean dishtowel (or cheese cloth), and squeeze well to remove as much water as humanly possible. (I like to do this in 2-3 batches because I have so little upper body strength.) You’re going to need to really squeeze, people. I can’t stress this enough! If you don’t give it your all, and the zucchini is watery, your cakes will fall apart. Sad, but true.
-Place the dried zucchini in a mixing bowl. Add the mashed chickpeas, minced onion, garlic, scallions, lemon zest, feta, egg, salt and fresh ground pepper.
-Bake your zucchini-quinoa cakes for 20 minutes, carefully flip the patties, and cook for another 10 minutes until they’re golden brown and crisped on the outside. If you’re cakes stick at all when you try to flip them, just let them be and finish cooking them without the flip. They won’t be as uniformly browned on both sides, but that’s no biggie. Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for 3-5 minutes. (If you make smaller cakes, you’ll need to adjust the cooking time accordingly. Duh.)
*Note: If you want to up the crispy factor, you can always give these bad boys a quick pan-fry in a couple tablespoons olive oil after you’ve baked them. (If you try to fry them without baking them first, they have a tendency to fall apart in the pan.)
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