The end of this month will mark six months of life here on planet Syracuse.
Six months – half a year. How insanely bananas is that? How time flies. Although the big move meant temporarily separating from my beloved city and my family and friends, it did grant me some things I never had before – like access to nature (which, it turns out, I quite like!), being able to afford a co-working space, and a washer and dryer inside our house, which is nothing short of a game-changer.
Since the arrival of the infamous Syracuse snow that blankets the city every December through March, I’ve re-discovered something I haven’t enjoyed since my early teens. And no, I’m not referring to my bedazzled lavender bellbottom trousers from Limited Too. I’m talking about leisurely cooking.
It may sound crazy that a full-time food blogger/cookbook author/whatever it is I am these days doesn’t indulge in this most sacred of activities, but alas, it was true up until the recent past. Leisurely cooking is not motivated by basic hunger, the need to feed others, or the desire to share it on Instagram. Leisurely cooking is the kind you do on a Saturday or Sunday evening, simply because you want to chop, sauté, stir, fold, knead, roll out, smother, and garnish; because you’ve got the time, since there’ll be no respite from the snow for at least another 48 hours; and because you can finally give that gorgeous cookbook the time of day. Leisurely cooking is not result-driven, and it doesn’t call for speed or agility. It’s just… nice.
This is something I let myself indulge in quite a bit during the winter holidays. I made Azerbaijani pasta from Kaukasis, chickpea flour chocolate chip cookies from The New Nourishing, and smokey tomato-lentil soup from The First Mess. I also made a giant batch of varenyky with my mom on Christmas day, and the most gorgeous roasted salmon filet on a bed of shaved fennel for New Year’s Eve. The food was, of course, delicious, but it satisfied more than my appetite. Leisurely cooking is restorative and can keep you satiated for weeks. Maybe you’ll do it too this winter?
These vegan black bean burgers are the opposite of what I just described. They’re for cooking on the fly on busy weeknights, when you need something nutritious and satisfying fast. The challenge with vegan burgers is that they lack the binding power of an egg to keep them together, which is why they tend to be mushy. One way to combat this is to add flour or breadcrumbs to the dough but I didn’t want to dilute the otherwise healthy mixture with refined carbs. Which is where the oats came in. I ground up some rolled oats in a food processor, which gave the black bean mixture structure and amped up the fiber content. In the flavor department, we’ve got sweetness from a sautéed onion, smokiness from smoked paprika, and freshness from lime and cilantro.
I think you’d agree that cold salads are not the most attractive option in the midst of certain winter conditions, like say, a “bombogenesis”; warm salads, on the other hand, are a different story. If you didn’t know Romaine could be cooked… well, you’re welcome! A quick char in a skillet gives this lettuce a smokey flavor but the white centers of the leaves remain pretty crunchy. I like to sear the halved Romaine whole, but if you’re having trouble cleaning all the dirt from the center of the lettuce, you can chop it before charring it. Like many other burgers, guacamole makes an excellent topper here. In the summer, you can serve these burgers on a crunchy purple cabbage carrot slaw. You can also plop them on a whole grain bun with all the regular fixin’s.
Ground oats give these vegan black bean burgers structure and amp up the fiber content. In the summer, you can serve the burgers on a crunchy purple cabbage carrot slaw. You can also plop them on a whole grain bun with all the regular fixin’s.
For the Burgers:
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
- ½ teaspoon sea salt, divided
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1 14-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed (1 ¾ cups cooked beans)
- ¾ cup rolled oats
- ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¾ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 handfuls cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
For the Guacamole and Salad:
- 1 large avocado, peeled, pitted and mashed
- 1 tablespoon minced red onion
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
- Freshly squeezed lime juice, to taste
- Sea salt, to taste
- 2 small heads of Romaine lettuce, cleaned thoroughly, halved lengthwise and patted dry
- About 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 ½ cups grape tomatoes, halved
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Set aside.
- Place ⅓ cup of the beans in a medium bowl and mash lightly with a fork. Set aside.
- Place the oats in a food processor and grind into a fine meal. Add the cumin, smoked paprika, black pepper, cilantro, lime juice, the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, the onion mixture, and the whole beans. Puree until smooth. Transfer the pureed mixture to the bowl with the mashed beans and stir to combine.
- If you prefer thicker patties, divide the mixture into 4 pieces; for thinner patties, 5 pieces. Roll each piece between your palms and flatten into a patty. Place on a tray or platter.
- Wipe out the skillet where you cooked the onion and heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Cook the burgers about 4 minutes per side, until browned and crisp, flip and cook for another 4 minutes. Serve with charred romaine salad (below) or as desired.
Guacamole and Salad:
- In a small bowl, stir together the avocado, onion, and cilantro. Season to taste with lime juice and salt. Set aside.
- Heat a large skillet or grill pan over high heat. Lightly drizzle the cut sides of the lettuce with oil and place cut side down in the skillet, gently pressing down. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until nicely browned, then flip and cook for another minute. Transfer to a cutting board and set aside.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add a bit of oil to the pan. Add the tomatoes and cook for 1 minute, just until softened. Set aside.
- Slice the lettuce into thin strips and toss in a bowl with the tomatoes, lime juice, and salt to taste. Divide the salad among 4 plates and top with burgers and guacamole.
- Serving Size: 1 burger patty
- Calories: 180
- Carbohydrates: 15.9 g
- Fiber: 4.4 g
- Protein: 4.4 g