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Crispy black bean cakes make for a hearty vegetarian meal

Serve them with this avocado crema.

I am an unabashed eater of all things meaty, but I always have a place in my heart for black bean cakes.

In its ideal form, a black bean cake should be moist, with a patty that holds together and forms a substantial crust, packed with robust bean flavor and seasonings that complement. Black bean cakes are a vegetarian dream packed with protein, affordable and full of flavor. They have a complex, robustly meaty texture that even devout carnivores like me love.

These black bean cakes are nicely spiced, delicious and versatile. Crown them with a dollop of avocado crema or a squeeze of lime juice. You can serve the cakes as big-mouth burger patties, bite-sized appetizers or a vegetarian dish. You can also serve them with a fried egg and bacon on top.

To use canned black beans, rinse them under cold water and drain them. If they’re too starchy, rinse and drain them a second time. I always have dried black beans in the pantry, but it’s hard to beat the spontaneity of canned beans.

The Mexican seasoning that goes into the cakes is a perfect condiment to keep on your spice shelf. You can use it as a dry rub on steaks, sprinkle it over Spanish rice or season tacos with it. The recipe below makes enough to fill a large spice jar.

Mexican Seasoning

¼ cup chili powder

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 tablespoon fine sea salt

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

2 teaspoons dried oregano

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (more if you like spicy)

Combine all the spices in a large spice jar with a lid, close the lid and shake to combine.

Crispy Black Bean Cakes With Avocado Crema

For the black bean cakes:

2 (15-ounce) cans black beans

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small finely minced onion

3 large garlic cloves, smashed

1 teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon chipotle chile powder (more if you like a little heat)

½ teaspoon turmeric

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 large carrot, peeled and cut into pieces

½ cup finely minced green onions, both white and green parts

¼ cup finely minced fresh Italian parsley

1 cup cooked basmati rice

1 cup toasted whole wheat bread crumbs, preferably homemade

1 large egg, beaten

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ cup plain panko bread crumbs

2 teaspoons Mexican Seasoning (see recipe), plus more for sprinkling

½ cup canola oil, plus more if needed

For the avocado crema:

1 large Haas avocado, cut in half lengthwise, pit removed

½ cup fresh cilantro or Italian parsley, coarsely chopped

½ cup sour cream

Juice and zest of 1 lime

½ teaspoon fine sea salt, or more to taste

Make the cakes: Drain both cans of beans into a colander and rinse just until the water runs clear. Set aside. Line a rimmed half sheet pan with foil and spray with canola oil cooking spray.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the minced onion and smashed garlic, cook over medium heat just until softened, 2 minutes. Stir in the cumin, chile powder, turmeric and brown sugar, cooking until fragrant, 1 minute. Scrape into the bowl of a food processor. Add 1 ½ cups of the drained beans, pulse just until the mixture is coarsely chopped but not smooth. Scrape the mixture into a large mixing bowl.

To the same food processor bowl, add the pieces of carrot and pulse to fine mince. Add to the mixing bowl with the remaining whole beans, green onions, parsley, cooked rice, bread crumbs, egg, soy sauce and salt. Mix well to distribute all the ingredients. Form into 12 heaping ¼-cup patties and place on the foil-lined pan. Refrigerate for 1 hour to firm up.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a shallow bowl, combine the panko bread crumbs and 2 teaspoons of Mexican Seasoning. Dip each bean cake, top and bottom, into the mixture and place back on the half sheet pan.

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, add the canola oil and heat on medium-high just until shimmering. Fry six bean cakes at a time just until nicely browned on top and bottom. Place back onto the foil-lined half sheet pan. Fry the remaining bean cakes, adding more oil if necessary. Sprinkle with more Mexican Seasoning. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Make the crema: Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.

Serve black bean cakes with a dollop of avocado crema.

Makes about 12 patties.

Source: Lorraine Fina Stevenski

Lorraine Fina Stevenski is a self-taught baker and award-winning recipe contest addict. This column features recipes that have been entered in contests across America and updated for readers who love to bake. Contact her at lorrainestevenski@gmail.com.

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