Brilliant Black Bean Cakes

I stopped eating red meat about 20 years ago. I lost my appetite for it after working in the meat snack industry marketing Slim Jim's. I didn't really have a beef with meat- I just didn't want to eat it anymore.

Black Bean Cakes with Lime Zested Sour Cream, Grilled Grand Marnier Shrimp
An arrugula and beet salad
In restaurants in the Southwest, I often find black bean cakes on the menu that looked liked hamburgers but were light, healthy and carried amazing tastes. Over the years I have developed my own recipe that has become a family favorite. As with all my recipes, feel free to improvise around the basics adding other veggies or herbs or seasoning to your hearts content. 


1 red pepper
1 yellow zucchini 
1/2 a purple/red onion 
1 large portobello mushroom 
dozen cherry tomatoes 
2 cans of Black Beans 
1 cup feta cheese crumbled 
1/2 pound raw shrimp
white wine (we used some leftover Prosecco)
2 cups sour cream
1 lime
Texas Pete or other hot sauce

Step #1 - Chop and saute the vegetables 
Take the pepper, zuchinni, mushroom and onion and chop into small cubes. Add a few cherry tomatoes to the pan to layer some tomato flavor too. Pan saute in olive oil starting with the onion and slowly adding the other ingredients until soft.

Wash and saute the vegetables 

Chop, chop

Sizzling saute of vegetables
Step #2 Mash half the beans and add the sauteed vegetables: 
In a mixing bowl, add one can of drained black beans. The liquid can be discarded. Mash those beans with a fork or a nifty potato masher until they are broken into little tiny pieces. Add the other can of drained beans whole and blend together with a fork. 

Do the Black Bean Mash
#3 When cooled, combine the vegetables with the beans and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 
Add the fresh oregano and some chopped cherry tomatoes in the bowl. Add hot sauce to taste ( I use about 1/3 tablespoon) along with some kosher salt to taste. For this recipe, I prefer Texas Pete but Cholula or your favorite sauce will work. 

Add oregano and rest of tomatoes to bowl
#4 Mix the sauteed vegetables into the bowl with the beans and herbs. 
Blend together both veggies and beans and set it aside to cool. Toss in the feta cheese and stir together. You can refrigerate it to help it firm up. 

A feta complete

When cool, form the patties

#5 Form the cakes 
Make the black bean cakes by forming them in your hands. They shouldn't be too thick but you can make about a dozen cakes out of this recipe. As you form them, put them on a plate and cover them with plastic wrap and let it chill in the refrigerator. 

#6 The magic towel
One of the most important pieces of equipment in my kitchen is my dish towel. Sounds weird but it always hangs over my shoulder as I cook. It is so critical to being able to cook, keep my hands clean and to look semi-cool. I had Fanny photograph it on my shoulder because it made me happy. Sorry for the indulgence. 

I never throw in the towel
 #6 Marinating the shrimp 
We like grilled shrimp with this dish as it adds a little protein, texture and flavor that is a superb compliment. Fanny was my Sous Chef this day and we cleaned and deveined the shrimp and marinaded them with some left over Prosecco, garlic, lemon juice and zest, kosher salt and finely chopped fresh rosemary. We skewered them and let them bathe in the liquid until grilling time.

Marinading the shrimp in Prosecco, EVOO, chopped rosemary,
kosher salt, lemon juice and zest
#7 The Salad 
Keeping it simple, we made a baby romaine salad with avocado, roasted beets, haricot verte and walnuts with a simple EVOO vinaigrette.

Can't beet this salad
#8 Cooking the cakes and grilling the shrimp 
To grill the BB cakes, put olive oil in the pan, sprinkle a little bread crumb on either side of the cake and pan saute them for about 4 minutes per side. When finished, put them on a cookie sheet to allow them to bake and stay warm in a low 300 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

Chill formed cakes before sauteing
Cook in a saute pan- about 4 minutes per side
About 10 minutes before you are ready to eat, grill the shrimp or if you don't have a grill, you can put them under the broiler. They take about 3 minutes per side. Before we put them on the grill, we drizzled a little Grand Marnier on top of the shrimp to kick it up a notch, to quote Emeril. As the shrimp are grilling, reduce the liquid they were marinating in (EVOO, Prosecco, lemon, etc) until it is thick. It is a great flavor reduction to drizzle on top of the shrimp after they are on the plate. 

Meanwhile take 2 cups of sour cream and one lime. Squeeze the juice of the lime into the bowl with the sour cream and then zest the lime too. Stir and put into a small plastic bag. Cut the corner and you can decorate the cakes with a nice zig zag. Stick in the refrigerator so it stays cool and firm. 

Grill, baby, grill 
#9 Let them eat cakes
Put the black bean cakes on the plate with the grilled shrimp. Add the salad. Drizzle the sour cream from the plastic bag. 

Time to eat
#10 Enjoy with a nice wine
We had these cakes with a nice Mondavi Cabernet from North Country. It was a 2009 and I let it breathe for about 20 minutes before we drank it. It was a nice compliment to the black bean cakes with it's deep berry and slight vanilla tone. 

This was one of the last meals that Mango watched me cook. When he was young, he and his brother would hang out in the fruit bowl on the table. He has probably been my audience for more than 4000 meals. Although he didn't eat black bean cakes- he loved left over sour cream.

Mango, this one's for you.

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