Sunday, February 04, 2007

Black Bean Patties

There's not much originality left around these parts, readers. I'm into the six-days-a-week part of busy season (that's as opposed to the six-long-days-a-week part that starts in another week or two), and simplicity is the name of the day. Simplicity, and shamelessly stealing recipes. I was reading redfox the other day, and she had linked to several very good ideas, most of which seemed pretty simple. Delicious though her oatmeal upma sounds, I decided that the black bean cakes would scratch the particular itch that I have at the moment.

The original recipe (which you can see here) is not at all difficult, but I figured it could be simpler still. I agree with redfox that quinoa might be the grain of choice for this recipe, but I had no quinoa on hand, and there was plenty of barley in the pantry, so I made up a batch of barley one evening this week, plopped it in the refrigerator, and used some of it today to make the black bean patties.

As must be obvious to regular readers, I am not a vegan. Nor am I a vegetarian of any sort, though I have great respect for the vegetarians and, of course, for vegetables. Because I wanted my patties to hold together well, I took redfox' advice and added an egg.

Trust me when I say that patty integrity is really not worth worrying about. I believe that an egg is a happy addition, but if you really want a patty that will stay together, you need two eggs, twice as much cornflake, and a slightly longer cooking time than is ideal. The patties you make with the extra ingredients and cooking time will still be delicious, but they will not be as good as the mush that you get if you stick to a single egg, one cup of cornflakes, and enough time to cook the mush and brown the egg, but not enough to give a dark crust. On the other hand, I was cooking with only the tiniest sprays of olive oil on my nonstick pan, and you might easily get better patties by using more oil for frying. You might also get firmer patties by using either couscous or quinoa (or something else) in place of the barley, but I very much like the taste of the barley. Also, the way I cook barley (bring a quart of water and three bouillon cubes to a boil, add 1/2 tsp. each of turmeric and smoked paprika, add 1 cup of barley, and simmer for about forty minutes, or until tender) makes it yellow, so you get a nice visual contrast with the black beans.

In any case, the black bean patties are terrific, highly satisfying, and very easy indeed. For those who care, it's qualifies as a Core recipe on Weight Watchers, provided that you don't eat more than two thirds of it in one day. And you won't. This recipe would easily serve six as a starter or four as a main course.

Black Bean Patties

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup cooked barley
1 cup salsa
2 cups cornflakes
1 T. olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 eggs

Combine the first five ingredients in a bowl and have at them with a potato masher until the black beans and the cornflakes are well mashed. Taste for seasoning and add pepper and salt (if you need any). Add the eggs and combine well.

Put a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Using a large spoon, place dollops of the mixture in the pan and smooth out into disc shapes. Cook for about 2.5 minutes on the first side, then flip and cook for another two minutes or so on the other side.

It is key here to use a salsa that you really like, but of course why would you have a salsa that you didn't like in your refrigerator? I am very fond of the refrigerated salsa that Costco carries. It's medium hot and flavorful. It's reasonably thick but not in the way that bottled salsa are thick. It's equally delicious as an ingredient and on chips.

Speaking of chips, I've started making my own, sort of. I find most baked chips nearly inedible, and while fried tortilla chips are almost unspeakably delicious, they're very high in both fat and calories, and if I eat a couple, I'll eat a whole bag. And not a little bag, either: the giant economy sized bag. Especially if the chips are flavored with lime. Time comes to a standstill when I'm eating those things.

But you can bake your own chips and get something that's pretty good. Just don't think of it as a substitute for fried tortilla chips because it's not. Think of it more as a kind of corn cracker that you use to shovel salsa into your mouth. It's nearly impossible to eat more salsa than is good for you.

Baked Corn Chips

6 (or however many) corn tortillas
Olive oil
The juice of half a lime
Kosher salt
One or more of:
Ancho chile powder
Cayenne pepper
Garlic powder
Black pepper, ground

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using an oil sprayer, lightly spray both sides of the tortillas with the olive oil. Brush both sides of each tortilla quickly with lime juice. Stack the tortillas and cut them into six or eight wedges. Put the wedges on baking sheets.

Mix together the salt and whichever of the spices you want to use. Sprinkle the salt mixture over the tortillas.

Bake for about twenty minutes. Serve warm.

You need to watch the chips pretty carefully towards the end of the baking. There is a window of only a couple of minutes when they're just right: crisp and lightly browned but not overdone. If you pull them out before that, they'll be hard but not really crisp, and if you wait longer, the texture will also be not right, and the lime flavor will lose something. If you're using two pans, the pan on the bottom rack will likely be done as much as five minutes before the pan on the top rack, at least in my oven. When I started making these, I would flip the chips over halfway through the cooking. That was a tedious process. Fortunately, I forgot to make the flip one time, and the chips were just as good unflipped.

They are not, however, just as good cold. I suppose you could reheat them, but you're really better off just making as many as will be eaten in one sitting. It's a very easy recipe, so you don't gain much by making a larger batch.

Corn tortillas vary somewhat in composition. The tortillas that I use are the ones that have no fat and a lot of fiber, just because I like the flavor of those best. They are more corny, somehow. If you don't have an olive oil sprayer, then I think you could make a small amount of lime vinaigrette and brush that onto the tortillas. If you did that, you could just add the spices directly to the vinaigrette. That may, in fact, be a superior method, and I should really try it next time.

Both of these recipes are highly susceptible to innovation. The black bean patties are so simple that I'm not tempted to fuss with them much, but if I happened to have some tapenade sitting around, I would certainly use a couple of tablespoons of that and leave out some or all of the olive oil. The salsa is meant to substitute for a number of other flavors, and it does that admirably, but if you like more of a particular flavor, say cilantro, then by all means add it.

Similarly, add whatever you like to the chips. They would probably be terrific with a bit of cumin into the mix. But they are also nice with just salt and pepper.


Anonymous redfox said...

How nice to have you test these before I try them myself! They continue to look and sound delicious.

3:35 PM  

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