Category Archives: Hot Commodities

Paying Off My Debts

On the very short list of Pookie’s favoritest meals is black bean cakes. No matter how they’re made, she loves them, so when Bon Appetit ran a recipe for them in 2004, I knew I had to give them a try. They turned out to be an enormous hassle, but were also, predictably, the first thing Pookie would suggest whenever I’d ask her what she wanted for dinner. Because I loathed making them, I quickly turned the promise of black bean cakes into a bartering chip. I’d beg her to do stuff for me in return for the cakes, and more often than not, I’d totally renege. Going into last weekend, in fact, I think I still owed her three batches for driving me up to Baking Boot Camp four years ago. And then we went into New York to have lunch with Margee of SportSquee fame.

After nine hours of pint-sized margaritas, I needed Pookie and her sobriety to get my very, very drunk ass home from midtown Manhattan. Somewhere along the way, I apparently promised her black bean cakes. I don’t remember this promise, but this time I think she really deserved them.

As it turns out, the recipe is a lot easier now than it seemed four years ago:

3 15-ounce cans black beans, drained (about 4 cups), divided
2 large eggs
3 cups breadcrumbs, divided
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped green onions (about 4)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Puree 2 cups of black beans with the eggs in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in remaining beans, 1 1/4 cups breadcrumbs, and the remaining ingredients. Shape the mixture into ten 1/2-inch-thick patties, using about 1/2 cup of the mixture for each. Coat the cakes with the remaining breadcrumbs.

Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and working in batches, cook the cakes in the oil until golden brown, about 3 minutes on each side.

The original recipe calls for making the breadcrumbs fresh, with crustless French bread. I think this is where the sticking point was for me, in my decision that I hated making these. Tonight I decided to cut a corner and just used panko, and you know what? It made this recipe a zillion times easier.

I also didn’t have scallions, so I just really thinly chopped a white onion. After all these years of thinking this recipe was a terrible burden, I’ve got to say it was a piece of cake. A piece of black bean cake, that is. Yukety yuk.

Anyway, these are delicious served up with some salsa and sour cream while they’re hot, but they’re also just fabulous plain when they’re cold.

These are so scrumptious they’re well worth keeping in play as my bartering chip with Pookie. Of course, if she ever finds out how easy they are, she’ll probably think of something more comparable in value next time she’s stuck trucking me through Times Square late on a sweltering summer night.

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