Eric Akis: Black beans become Southwest-flavoured burgers

Eric Akis

It’s a long weekend and I suspect many burgers will be cooked and enjoyed for a casual, summer-is-almost-here supper.

If that’s on your agenda, too, and you want to make one where the patty stuffed in the bun is homemade and meat-free, I’ve prepared a canned-black-bean-based one for you to try.

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Black beans are a good replacement for meat in a burger patty because when blended, formed and cooked, they hold together well. An added bonus is that black beans are budget-friendly, a great source of fibre and protein, and contain healthful minerals such as magnesium and potassium.

Black beans also welcome bright flavours, such as the ancho chili powder, lime juice, hot-pepper sauce and chopped cilantro and vegetables I mixed into my Southwest-style burger patties.

You can make the patties, which are lightly coated with panko, many hours before cooking them in a skillet. Once they’re formed, just keep them refrigerated until needed.

My recipe yields three to four burgers, depending on how large you decide to make the patties. If desired, you could serve them with corn on the cob or slaw, perhaps one made with jicama.

Southwest-style Black Bean Burgers

Black-bean-based burger patties, flavoured Southwest-style, cooked and stuffed in buns with salsa, avocado and sour cream.

Preparation time: 40 minutes, plus chilling time

Cooking time: Seven to eight minutes

Makes: Three or four burgers

1 (19 oz./540 mL) can black beans, rinsed and drained well (I used Unico brand)

1/3 cup plus 3 Tbsp panko (divided)

2 tsp cornstarch

1 Tbsp lime juice

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 tsp ancho chili powder (see Note 1)

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco, or to taste

1/3 to 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro sprigs, chopped

1/4 cup finely diced yellow bell pepper (cut into small 1/8- to 1/4-inch cubes)

1/4 cup finely diced red onion (cut into small 1/8- to 1/4-inch cubes)

• salt to taste

2 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil (divided)

3 or 4 hamburger buns, split and warmed

• mayonnaise, to taste

3 or 4 leaf or butter lettuce leaves

homemade (see recipe below) or store-bought tomato salsa, to taste

• sliced ripe avocado, to taste

• sour cream, to taste (see Eric's options)

Set 1/3 cup of the black beans in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Place the rest of the beans, 3 Tbsp panko, cornstarch, juice, garlic, chili powder, cumin and hot pepper sauce in a food processor. Pulse until the beans are well blended, but still a tiny bit coarse in texture (mixture will be quite thick).

Use a spatula to transfer the blended beans to the bowl with the whole beans. Mix in the cilantro, onion and bell pepper. Taste the mixture and season with salt, as needed.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or plastic wrap. Place the remaining 1/3 cup panko in a shallow dish.

For large patties, divide the bean mixture into three roughly equally sized balls. For medium-sized patties, divide the mixture into four roughly equally sized balls. Shape each ball into a 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick patty and set on the baking sheet.

Lightly coat each patty in panko, gently pressing it on to help it adhere. Set coated patties back on the baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate patties at least one hour, to allow their flavours to meld and to firm up. (The patties can be formed and coated in panko many hours before cooking.)

When ready to cook, pour the oil into a large skillet set over medium, medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add the black bean burger patties and cook three and half to four minutes per side, until very hot throughout and golden on the outside.

Spread the cut sides of each bun with mayonnaise. Place a lettuce leaf on the bottom of each bun; set on the patties. Top each patty with some salsa, sliced avocado and sour cream, set on top buns and serve.

Note: Ancho chili powder is sold in the bottled herb and spice aisle of most supermarkets.

It’s made from dried ancho chilies and has deep, rich flavour and mild to medium heat.

If you can’t find it or don’t wish to use it, replace it with regular chili powder.

Eric options: If three or four burger patties are too many for you, freeze the ones you don’t need for another time. To do so, freeze the uncooked patties solid on the baking sheet, and then individually wrap and keep frozen until ready to thaw and cook.

Instead of sour cream, top the burger patties with yogurt-like, plain cultured coconut milk, crumbled queso fresco, or slices of Monterey jack cheese.

Tomato Chipotle Salsa

This tangy, mildly spicy salsa yields enough to top the black bean burgers with, and also some to serve as a snack with tortilla chips.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: None

Makes: About two cups

2 medium ripe, red on-the-vine tomatoes, cut into small cubes

1/3 cup finely diced red or white onion

1/3 to 1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro sprigs, chopped

1 large chipotle pepper, finely chopped (see Note)

1 1/2 Tbsp lime juice

1/4 tsp ground cumin

• salt to taste

Combine ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Salsa can be made a few hours before needed.

Note: Chipotle peppers are smoked jalapeño peppers. They are sold in cans in the Mexican foods aisle of most supermarkets. Unused peppers can be stored in a tightly sealed jar in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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