Cornmeal’s golden crispness edges the delicate, almost creamy inside of this savory black bean cake. A lemon-basil aioli matches the cornmeal’s firm texture with a rich unctuous and acidic kick.
Most batters or dredges for fritters or savory cakes contain wheat flour and buttermilk or milk. Your friends who need to avoid gluten and dairy will be thankful for this crunchy and filling dish.
With a thin layer of healthy avocado or olive oil, this dish will please those who hesitate to eat fried foods, but honestly love and miss the crispness of fried goodies.
The combination of black beans, egg, and chickpea flour make this a high-protein alternative to meat-based entrees, with two cakes providing a generous and satisfying meal for those with hearty appetites.
Serves 3-4 people as an entrée; 5-6 as an appetizer
3 cups cooked black beans, drained (rinse and drain if using canned beans)
1 ½ cup zucchini, grated
3 medium garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon lemon zest, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon cumin, toasted and ground
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
½- ¾ teaspoon salt, to taste
1 cup of chickpea flour
1 cup cornmeal, medium-ground
2 eggs, mixed with 1 tablespoon cool water (if you’re worried about cholesterol and saturated fat, skip the egg yolks and use three egg whites instead)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Make sure the beans are drained of any excess water. In a large bowl, mash the black beans with a potato masher. This will take around 2-3 minutes—the goal is to get most of the beans crushed. It’s fine if there are a few beans that are still whole.
3. Place the grated zucchini, black & red pepper, salt, cumin, lemon zest, sage, and garlic in the bowl with the black beans, and fold the ingredients until evenly mixed. (If you are using home-cooked beans, which tend to be firmer than canned, add one egg white to the mixture to help the cakes hold their shape.)
4. Prepare the dredging bowls: fill one small bowl with half a cup of the chickpea flour, another with two eggs whisked with 1 tablespoon cool water, and a third bowl with ½ cup of cornmeal.
5. For entrée size cakes*, mold roughly 3 ounces of the mixture into a hamburger-size patty. Be gentle with each cake as you place it in the chickpea flour, dust it to cover, and then carefully submerge it in the egg wash. Next, place the cake in the bowl of corn meal and coat it in the golden grains. If the cake has deformed through the dredging process, reform it into a neat little puck of love, adding more cornmeal as needed to maintain a robust crust. (If the bean-base is too moist, the cake might be a little too fragile. To correct this, place the cakes in the freezer for 15-20 minutes, and then reform and pack them with corn meal as needed.)
6. Place the cakes on a sheet tray or plate with a dusting of cornmeal.
7. When you are finished forming the cakes, put 2 tablespoons of avocado or olive oil in a heavy-bottom glass baking dish. Put the pain in the oven for about 2 minutes, or until the oil is heated.
8. Lay the cakes in the baking dish, and place the dish in the oven. Cook for about 45-60 minutes, or until golden brown on each side. After 20-25 minutes, check the bottom of each cake for caramelization. Once a golden brownness covers the bottom the each cake, flip them over, add two tablespoons of avocado oil in the spaces between the cakes, and let them cook for another 20-25 minutes, or until the other side matches the colorful crust of the first side.
8. While the cakes are cooking, get to work on the aioli!
9. Once they’re cooked, keep the cakes warm until ready to consume by placing them on top of the oven and covering them with a tent of aluminum foil.
*For small, appetizer-size cakes, form 1.5 ounce round balls and dredge as described above. Line a sheet tray or glass baking dish with unbleached paper muffin cups, pour about 1 tablespoon of avocado or olive oil into each cup, and place the cakes in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon zest, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice, fresh squeezed
1 egg yolk
1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon, chopped basil
salt, to taste
1. Place the minced garlic, a pinch of salt, and lemon zest and juice in a large stainless steel bowl. Let these ingredients mingle for 10 minutes.
2. Place a wet towel under the bowl. Whisk the egg yolk into the mixture. Whisk for about 1 minute, or until the mix froths.
3. Start by adding the olive oil drop-by-drop while vigorously whisking the aioli base. Before adding any more oil, make sure what you’ve added emulsifies with the base. Once you add about half of the olive oil, you can begin to add a little more at a time, but make sure you don’t add too much at once, and keep whisking your heart out (you can tell that you are whisking vigorously enough when your hand and wrist start to ache about ¾ of the way through the cup of olive oil). If the aioli appears too tight, add another drop or two of lemon juice or cool water.
4. Check the aioli for salt and acidity. You may need to add a drop of lemon juice and another pinch of salt.
5. Add the chopped basil and set the aioli aside. If it will be longer than 30 minutes before you consume the aioli, store it in the refrigerator.