I love these burgers and I treat them like any other burger, i.e. put them on toasted bread/rolls and top them with rings of sliced red onion, lettuce leaves and sliced tomatoes. Sometimes ketchup, sometimes mustard, sometimes equal parts mayo and harissa. Cheddar cheese, feta or Swiss are nice. So is serving the burger open-faced and topped with the cheese of your choice and sautéed onions and mushrooms. That calls for a knife and fork.
When pan-fried, these BB burgers have a creamy texture with a browned and near-crisp surface. One of life’s little hurdles that I haven’t been able to clear: I haven’t come up with a formula for these that makes these burgers grill-able. By the time I add enough oats to make them firm enough to not break apart and fall through the grill, the creamy texture is gone. If you’re jonezing for that bbq/burger feel, pan-fry them indoors and bring them up to the roof or out to the deck.
I cook my own black beans instead of using canned for this recipe. I guess that’s because I always have black beans in the house and I love the smell of simmering beans. If you’re not as wild about the smell of black beans as I am, this is the place to use canned beans.
Makes 4 hefty (7-ounce) burgers or 6 smaller (about 4 1/2-ounce) burgers
1 cup black beans (2 cups cooked) or one 19-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small red or yellow onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and coarsely grated
1 celery rib, trimmed and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 red pepper, roasted, seeded and peeled and cut into small dice
¼ cup chopped parsley or chives or a mix
1 tablespoon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
½ cup oatmeal
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
For on top:
Mustard or mayo or a stirred-together mix of the two
Anything else you may like (sliced peperoncini, sliced dill pickles, bread and butter pickles…)
Cook the black beans: Put the beans in a small (1-quart) saucepan and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring them to a boil. When the water is boiling, lower the heat so the water is simmering. Skim the foam off the surface as it rises. It will do this for about 4 to 5 minutes. After that, no skimming. Simmer the beans until they are tender but still firm, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Check the beans out from time to time and if the water dips below the level of the beans, add just enough hot water to cover the beans. Toward the end of cooking, you won’t need to add much (if any) water. By the time the beans are tender they should be barely covered with a thick cooking liquid. This will come in handy for soups, stews, chilis, etc., but we don’t need it for BB burgers. You can skip this whole step by using canned beans and draining and rinsing them.
Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender and just starting to turn brown, about 10 minutes. Turn the heat down a little if they start to brown before then.
Put ½ cup of the cooked (or drained canned) beans in a bowl. Add the red pepper, parsley, mustard and Worcestershire sauce to the bowl. Put the remaining black beans in a food processor and add the oatmeal. Process, scraping down the sides a few times, until the beans are finely ground and there are little flecks of oatmeal throughout. The mixture will be pretty dry—the other ingredients will moisten it up. Scrape the bean/oat mix into the bowl with the whole black beans and stir until blended. Season with salt and pepper. For larger burgers, divide the mix into quarters and press them into ¾-inch thick patties. (Press them between a sheet of folded-over plastic wrap then pat them into neat rounds if that’s your thing.) To make smaller burgers, use about ¾ cup for each. Freeze as many as you like: first wrap them in plastic wrap and then in foil. They will last for up to 2 months. If you refrigerate them, use them within 2 days.
To pan-fry the burgers: Pour a thin coating of olive oil into a heavy pan (cast-iron is my choice) that is larger than you think you need. These burgers aren’t as easy to flip as beef burgers and you’ll need the extra room. Heat the oil over medium-low heat. Slip the burgers into the pan and let them be. Don’t prod, poke, lift a corner or in any other manner perturb them for at least 5 minutes. Let them form a brown and wonderful crust underneath before you try to flip them. While they are browning, the heat should be high enough for a nice steady sizzle but not so high that the burgers are splattering or so low that they just sit there, looking listless. Adjust the heat as you see fit. When the first side is browned, slide a wide spatula under the burgers and flip them. (Like dogs, black bean burgers can sense fear. Approach the pan with confidence and flip them with a single, decisive movement. If they do break apart, just smush them back together.) Lay on the cheese if you’re going that route. Brown the second side in the same way and you’re ready to go.
Serve the burgers open faced on a slice of toast, small burgers on toasted English muffins, with no bread at all or over brown rice.