It is an understatement to say that I am not a morning person.  I set two alarms every morning, for an hour before I have to leave the house, and I hit snooze for the next forty minutes.  I became a functioning adult on the day that I refused to sleep past 10:30 on the weekends, because I knew it would make weekdays that much harder.  I like the concept of waking up early… it just rarely happens unless brute force is applied.

This means that I never get breakfast.  I roll out of bed, wash my face, throw clothes on, and hope that there are no pillowcase marks on my forehead when I show up at school, ready to infuse young minds with knowledge.  The idea of eating something when I’m still half-asleep is really rather nauseating to me, and so if I eat hash browns, it’s in the evening, on a breakfast-for-dinner kinda night.

Of course, not eating breakfast means that I am ravenous by the time I finish teaching at 12:30, and on unrestrained days I have been known to have Doritos and a chocolate bar for lunch.  (What?  Dairy, carbs, chocolate… it’s totally well-rounded.)  Today, though, while teaching question tags –

Let me just stop here and talk about how ridiculous English is.  Here are three sentences with question tags:

You’re doing your homework, aren’t you?
He walks the dog, doesn’t he?
We ate dinner together yesterday, didn’t we?

In Bulgarian, those three question tags – “aren’t you,” “doesn’t he,” and “didn’t we” – can ALL be said using the same phrase. And which one of us has the universal language? How silly.

OK. Sorry. So, today, while teaching question tags during my last class, I was about ready to gnaw my arm off, and I was determined not to grab any junk food. I thought about some quinoa I had left over in the fridge, and that onion that desperately needed to be cut open (see previous post), and a real craving I’ve been having lately for tuna. (Yeah, I eat fish sometimes.) In Venice I learned how to make risotto cakes out of leftover risotto (throw an egg in there, make into patties, fry, top with parmesan. You’re welcome), and I thought about doing something similar with the quinoa. Deborah Madison has a great recipe for Quinoa Potato Cakes, which I always made with sweet potatoes and some chipotle, but since neither one of those was around, I figured a different variation was in order. (I have yet to cook that dish straight from the recipe.) So at this point, I’m babbling – the main idea is that I’m giving you an example of what can happen when you take a bunch of cravings and leftovers and use them to adapt a recipe that will give you a darned tasty lunch.

Yes, there’s ranch dressing mix in here.  Also, I used frozen peas, and to get the cold out of them, I just put them in a bowl, and when I drained the potatoes, I poured a little of that simmering water onto them and let them sit for a couple of minutes.

Quinoa-Potato Cakes with Tuna
makes about 12

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for frying cakes
1/2 cup finely diced onion
2 cloves garlic
1 cup cooked quinoa
3 small potatoes, peeled, cubed (about a cup), and boiled until soft
1 tablespoon ranch dressing mix
1/2 cup cooked peas
1/2 tin (or a whole one, if you’re feling bold) oil-packed tuna, drained
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs (I used panko)
1/4 cup shredded monterey jack
1/4 cup chopped parsley
ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until softened. Put in a large bowl (put the pan back on the heat and throw some more olive oil in there, enough to coat the bottom) with quinoa, potatoes, and ranch dresssing mix and mash until potato pieces are broken down and mixture is well-combined. Add remaining ingredients and mix well to combine. It’s going to look like the picture just above – not resembling something that will hold together easily. Grab some mixture by the palmful and press into patties. (See? It holds together fine.) Put 3-4 cakes at a time into the hot oil, careful not to crowd the pan, and let cook for at least 3 minutes before turning and cooking the other side. Serve with…

Lemon-Parsley Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 cup water or mild broth
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Heat olive oil in a small pan over medium high (almost high) heat. Add flour and start whisking. When flour turns a few shades darker add lemon juice and water. Let this reduce by half, remove from heat, and add lemon zest and parsley.