In a medium pot, over high heat, add rinsed quinoa, salt, garlic powder, cumin, dried herbs, olive oil, and stir. Brint to a roiling boil. Cover, lower heat to low, and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Set timer.
While the quinoa is cooking make the Tomato Chickpea relish, stirring all ingredients together in a medium bowl.
Check quinoa- making sure all the water is gone. If not, continue cooking covered, 5 more minutes, and until steam holes appear (this usually takes me a total of 25 minutes) and quinoa has soaked up all the water and looks fairly dry.) It is important that quinoa is dry-ish and not watery. Be patient here, all stoves are different.
Stir the quinoa with a fork, repeatedly, for a minute, until you begin to see the individual grains start to break apart. This may seem strange, but keep stirring. Eventually, after a full minute of stirring, the grains will break apart and begin to clump. Remove from stove, let cool down in the pot to where it’s cool enough to handle with your hands, about 15 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest and fresh parsley if you like.
Using wet hands, shape into 4 balls, the size of a tennis ball. Place on a plate or sheet pan. Using wet hands press into a 1 – 1 1/2 inch thick cake (about 3-4 inches wide), smoothing any cracks on the edges, making them nice and tidy. Wet hands is key. Place in the fridge for 15 minutes, or overnight. ( These will keep 3-4 days if made ahead.) As the cakes cool they will become even more sturdy.
Pan-sear the Quinoa Cakes in a well-oiled skillet over medium heat. You can pan-sear them without any coating, or for an extra crispy crust, dredge in rice flour or GF Panko. I often do these without any coating at all. Just be sure to not fiddle with. them- letting them develop a good crust before flipping. As then develop the crust, they will naturally release themselves from the pan. I like to use a thin metal spatula to flip ( more precise).
You can also bake these in a toaster oven ( right on the rack) or in a 400F oven ( on a parchment-lined pan) until warmed through, about 20 minutes.
Divide among plates and top with the fresh tomato chickpea relish. Spoon any remaining dressing over top and around the cakes. Garnish with crumbled goat cheese if you like or a balsamic glaze.