I'm really excited about my column this month. For the last week or so, I've been testing a black bean burger recipe, and what I present to you today is the ultimate.
Homemade bean/veggie burgers are often a disaster — I've made countless patties that will not be pressed flat no matter how I try, or disintegrate while being fried, or dry into horrible bean dust after being baked, or taste like bread crumbs, or can't be flipped even with the widest, most industrial spatula. No more, I say! This black bean burger recipe is held together by many clever starches and binders, and it can be baked, flipped and fried. It's also delicious, a bit like falafel, but nice and soft (dare I say juicy?) like a burger patty should be.
The secret is frozen peas. Yes. A starchy vegetable high in dietary fiber, vitamin K, vitamin C, phosphorus and more, a cup of warmed-up frozen peas helps keep these burgers together and greatly improves the texture. A healthy dose of panko bread crumbs and one egg do the rest of the binding. Chilling the patties for at least an hour once they're formed helps as well.
Having a homogeneous mixture also helps — chunky veggie burgers present the risk of bean or vegetable falling out in the shaping and cooking process. I start with onion, garlic and pepper in the food processor, making sure those are all diced up before adding peas, black beans, spices, egg and bread crumbs. This recipe has no oil, so you can feel like an absolute saint when you eat them.
They're also a really good way to sneak veggies into your kids or use up extra CSA produce this summer. Try a carrot or some cabbage instead of the red pepper, but don't get too crazy or things will fall apart again.
I've been eating these "naked" with no bun, piled high with burger fixin's and a cilantro-yogurt sauce reminiscent of Indian raita. Way healthier than mayo, it's a nice creamy way to cut through the spice of the burger.
Stalwart black bean burgers and cilantro yogurt sauce
Makes 5 to 6 patties
1/2 red onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 red pepper
1 cup of frozen peas (microwave 1 to 2 minutes)
1 can of black beans
3/4 to 1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3/4 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon paprika
With your food processor, pulse onion, garlic and red pepper together until diced. Add egg, peas, black beans, egg, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, cumin and paprika, and process until homogeneous — you should have a brown substance with flecks of red, no big chunks.
Lay out a sheet of wax or parchment paper on a baking sheet and with your hands, make 5 to 6 burger patties. Go for the size of a cooked hamburger patty from Pedrin's or any other local cheap-eats establishment. Lay on the wax paper, cover with another sheet, and chill at least one hour. These can also be frozen and baked/fried right out of the freezer.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray baking sheet or coat with a thin coat of olive oil; place burger patties on baking sheet and bake 15 minutes, then flip and bake for another 15. Serve however you like.
Note: I'm still working on a grillable version. These will fall right through the grates. If you put them on oil-coated tinfoil on the upper grate to warm them, it might work but I don't recommend. It's too easy to turn them into charcoal briquettes.
Cilantro yogurt sauce
1 handful of cilantro, finely chopped (leaves and stems! No waste!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Juice of half a lemon
1 cup yogurt
2 tablespoons olive oil.
In medium bowl, mix ingredients together until homogeneous; enjoy. Swipe a healthy gob of this over your burger or use on the side as a dip for sweet potato fries.