Travel-friendly food is an essential part of summer. Whether you are spending time away from home or preparing for a day trip to the park or beach, you need those simple recipes to make on the go.
When the pandemic first hit this spring, some of us found ourselves buying and eating a lot of beans, and for good reason. Canned or dried, beans are inexpensive, they keep well and one bag of dried beans makes many meals, which meant fewer nerve-wracking trips to the grocery store.
If you stockpiled a little too hastily back in March, this recipe will help you work through those unused beans in your cabinet. It’s an easy vegetarian bean cake made with a blend of herbs, chile paste and mashed cooked beans, which are shaped into disks, then seared in a skillet until crisp. It needs no special equipment, and you can stroll into most markets from Coney Island to Cairo and find nearly every ingredient.
Harissa, which is folded in to the mixture to add a hint of smoke and pepper, is the one ingredient that may not be so easy to find everywhere, but gochujang, sofrito, red zhug, red curry, ancho paste or any thick chile paste that adds a dash of heat will work just as well.
Almost any comparably textured cooked beans will do — red, black, navy or cannellini. There are heirloom options to play with if they’re accessible to you: Jacob’s Cattle beans are easy to find in Maine, yellow-eyed beans in Vermont, Scarlet Runner and Christmas limas across the Southwest and Amish nuttle beans in Pennsylvania.
These crispy patties, which take about 45 minutes to prepare, are stellar topped with a fried egg for breakfast, alongside dressed greens for a light lunch or served on top of rice pilaf for dinner. It is a delicious, simple and adaptable recipe you can rely on as many of us juggle the shifting realities of work, school and play in an effort to find our “new normal.”
Crispy bean cakes with harissa, lemon and herbs
Makes: 4 servings (10 bean cakes)
Total time: 30 minutes, plus 15 minutes’ chilling
2 (15-ounce) cans beans, such as black-eyed peas, chickpeas, pinto, kidney or black beans, drained (about 3 cups)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup sliced scallions
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon harissa, plus more for serving
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 lemon, zested and cut into wedges
1 egg white
6 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
Labneh or full-fat Greek yogurt, for serving (optional)
1. Place the drained beans in a large bowl and crush using a fork or your fingers until coarsely mashed. Add the cilantro, dill, scallions, cornstarch, harissa, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper. Add the lemon zest and stir to incorporate. Alternatively, you can incorporate ingredients using a food processor and pulse to combine.
2. In a small bowl, whisk the egg white until foamy and fold it into the bean mixture. Cover the mixture and refrigerate to chill slightly, at least 15 minutes, before shaping and frying.
3. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a medium (10-inch) nonstick skillet or a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Working in batches, use a 1/4-cup measure to scoop portions of the bean mixture into the oil. Using the flat surface of the cup, press each scooped portion to tightly pack and shape it into a 1/4-inch-thick patty. Cook until the bottom is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Turn using a wide spatula, and brown the other side, about 2 minutes.
4. Remove cooked cakes from oil and drain on a plate lined with paper towels or a cooling rack on a baking sheet. Repeat until all the bean mixture is used, adding the remaining oil and removing any loose bits from the skillet as necessary. Return the bowl to the refrigerator in between batches to keep the mixture chilled.
5. Serve lemon wedges alongside the crispy cakes for squeezing. Garnish with dollops of labneh, if using, additional fresh herbs and harissa for dipping.