Black Bean Burgers with Avocado-Lime Crema

Cider food pairings

“This is the best Black Bean Burger I have ever tasted!” said everyone in the kitchen when this burger went into their mouths. The trick we learned from Olaiya is to roast the beans. This recipe is complex and layered; each addition adds to the totality of the flavors. Don’t forget any of the additions and you will agree with us – that this is a damn good burger!

Black Bean Burgers
Yield:  About 6 burgers

2 (14-15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, diced fine
1 small red, yellow or orange bell pepper, diced fine
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 jalapeño with seeds (or to taste), diced fine
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup roasted cashews
3-4 ounces pepper jack cheese, diced fine
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
3/4 cup bread crumbs
Kosher salt or sea salt, to taste
1 egg, lightly beaten
High-heat vegetable oil for cooking the burgers

6 hamburger buns, toasted or grilled if desired
1 recipe Avocado-Lime Crema (see below)
1/2-3/4 cup sliced pickled peppadew peppers or other sweet pickled peppers
12-15 leaves butter lettuce or romaine, rinsed and dried

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Spread the black beans in a single layer on a parchment-lined rimmed sheet-pan.  Place the beans in the oven and roast until most of the beans split open and the skins are beginning to get crispy, about 20 minutes.  Remove the beans from oven and cool slightly.

While the beans are cooking, heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat for a minute or so.  Add the olive oil and heat for 30-60 seconds longer.   Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, jalapeño and a generous pinch of salt.  Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and the onions are translucent and pale golden-brown, 5-8 minutes.  Add the cumin, coriander and cinnamon and cook for another minute to allow the spices bloom.  Transfer the onion-pepper mixture to a large bowl and set aside.

Place the cashews in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until chopped into pieces no larger than 1/3-inch.  This should take 10-15 short pulses.  Add the cashew pieces to the bowl with the  onion-pepper mixture.

When the beans have cooled slightly, transfer them to the food processor.  Pulse until the beans are about the same size as the cashew pieces.  Add the beans to the bowl with the onion-pepper mixture. Add the diced cheese, mayonnaise, bread crumbs and a generous pinch of salt.  Use your hands to combine the mixture until it looks homogenous.  Taste and add more salt, if necessary.  Add the egg and mix again until homogenous.  Divide the bean mixture into 6 balls of equal size.  Flatten the balls into patties and chill for at least 15 minutes.

*Note: The uncooked patties can be layered with parchment or wax paper and stored in the fridge for up to three days or in the freezer for up to three months.  If frozen, thaw overnight in the fridge before cooking.

To cook the burgers on the stovetop:  Heat a cast-iron or nonstick pan over medium heat.  Add enough oil to evenly film the bottom of the pan.  Add as many burgers as your pan will hold without crowding.  You may need to cook your burgers in batches.  If so, hold the first batch in a low oven as the second batch cooks.

Cook the burgers  until they are golden-brown and crispy on one side, about 5 minutes.  Turn the burgers and cook until golden-brown and crispy on the other side, about 5 minutes more, adding a bit more oil if your pan looks dry.

To cook on the grill:  Light 1 chimney’s-worth of charcoal.  When hot and glowing, pour out the charcoal on one side of your grill.  Place the cooking grate in place, close the lid and allow the grill to preheat for 5-10 minutes.

If using a gas grill, set half of your burners to medium-high, close the lid and allow the grill to preheat for at least 10 minutes.

When the grill is hot, clean the grill grate and brush it generously with the vegetable oil.  Brush your burgers with some of the vegetable oil and place them on the hot side of the grill, oiled-side-down.  Cook, without moving, until the undersides are browned and crispy and grill marks appear, 3 to 5 minutes.  Brush the tops of burgers with oil and turn the burgers.  Cook until the other side is browned, crispy and grill marks appear, 3 to 5 minutes more.

To serve: Place the lettuce on the bottom halves of the prepared buns.  Place cooked burgers on the lettuce and top with some of the Avocado-Lime Crema and pickled peppers.  Serve hot.

Avocado-Lime Crema
Yield:  About 1 cup

1 large, ripe avocado
1/4 cup cream
1 tablespoon sliced green onion, green part only
3 tablespoons cilantro leaves
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 teaspoons  lime juice

Place the avocado, cream, green onion, cilantro, salt and lime juice in the bowl of a food processor or blender.  Process until thick and creamy.  Thin with cold water until your desired consistency is reached.

Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.  Serve cold or at room temperature.