Good old (low-sodium) black beans are one of my favorite pantry staples. One should never be without a can of at least some kind of beans. The possibilities are just endless.
In search of a new, hearty, healthy vegetarian recipe, I consulted Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything Vegetarian. I knew that I should be well-stocked for most items in the beans and legumes pages. How this cookbook works is that you start with a recipe, like I did with "Baked White Bean Cakes", which presents a recipe and method. Variations are suggested at the end, and sometimes possible sauces are listed. The idea is that you get the technique and then let your imagination run wild with possibilities, and end up coming up with your own original take in the end. That's why I love this book, it teaches you how to create ideas from surefire techniques.
My Cheddar Black Bean Cakes ended up quite far from the original recipe. I changed the ingredients to be a little more Mexican, to go with the type of beans. But honestly, the real difference is that I completely misread the amount of beans to be used. So my cakes are more "cake" and less "bean" than Bittman's recipe. But I'm ok with that.
On the side, I served a cool and refreshing avocado salad with lime. The cakey-beans needed a moist partner, definitely. I also found this really interesting red sweet corn. It tastes similar to regular corn but just looks more colorful and rustic. It was a nice light summer dinner, and didn't take too long to prepare - it could probably be done in 45 minutes to an hour.
Leftover bean cakes make a great breakfast, too. Serve them with huevos rancheros, or topped with poached eggs on an english muffin for a mexican benedict. I made a simple sandwich with a cheddar-chive omelet, since I didn't have many other ingredients on hand.
Cheddar Black Bean Cakes
4 servings (8 cakes)
2 T olive oil
1/2 C onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14oz can of black beans, rinsed & drained
1/4 C + 2 T sharp cheddar, shredded (for vegan, use dairy-free cheese)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper
1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Condiments: Sour cream, hot sauce or salsa, cilantro
Preheat oven to 375F.
1. Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil 3-4 minutes and set aside.
2. Mash beans, leaving them semi-chunky. I use a potato masher. Mix in eggs and cheese. Add garlic and onions, oregano, salt, pepper, flour and baking powder.
3. Lightly grease a baking sheet with olive oil or cooking spray. Drop heaping tablespoons of bean mix onto the sheet into 8 separate cakes. Slightly press them down to resemble a 1" thick patty.
4. Bake cakes for 25 minutes. Top each cake with a little cheese and bake for another 5-10 minutes to melt cheese.
5. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with fat-free sour cream and hot sauce or salsa.
Avocado Salad with Cucumber, Carrot and Lime
1-1/2 C cucumber, peeled and sliced
1 C baby carrots, halved lengthwise
2 avocados, cubed
1/4 C lime juice (1-2 limes)
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper
1/4 C cilantro, chopped
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Serve chilled.