Smoky Texas Chili-Bean Burgers with Corn and Avocado Topping

Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser Yield:  8 burgers
Prep Time:  45 minutes Soaking and Chilling Time:  12 hours 30 minutes Cook Time:  2 hours 45 minutes

Smoky Texas Chili-Bean Burgers with Corn and Avocado Topping

These patties are so rich in smoky goodness that I confidently named them burgers. Chili-bean burgers, that is. Allow time to soak the beans overnight. The topping was a recipe that I had to make twice before I even made the second batch of burgers—everyone scarfed down the entire first bowl when I turned my back for a moment. If you aren’t making the biscuits, don’t worry. The burgers and topping are one delicious, balanced vegan meal on their own (without bread, I would suggest serving them with some roasted sweet potatoes or fries). Either way, this meal screams “beer me!”

Ingredients

Smoky Texas Chili-Bean Burgers:

½ pound dried pinto beans

1 cup Texmati or long-grain basmati rice

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons Mushroom Stock or store-bought low-sodium mushroom stock

2 tablespoons ground flaxseed

⅔ cup finely ground toasted pumpkin seeds or toasted pumpkin-seed meal

1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika

1 teaspoon roasted ground cumin (see Kitchen Tips)

½ teaspoon roasted ground cinnamon (see Kitchen Tips)

1 teaspoon ground toasted ancho chili powder (see Kitchen Tips)

1 teaspoon ground toasted guajillo chili powder (see Kitchen Tips)

4 cloves garlic, peeled and grated, any green centers discarded

2 teaspoons smoked salt or salt

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, vegan preferred

1 teaspoon adobo sauce from chipotles in adobo (or to taste, depending on your proclivity for heat; see Kitchen Tips)

2 to 3 shakes natural liquid hickory smoke, optional

 

Mild Corn and Avocado Topping

1 large or 2 small shallots,  peeled and finely minced (about ⅓ cup)

1¼ cups frozen roasted corn kernels, defrosted

1 large or 2 small ripe medium tomatoes, minced

3 ripe Hass avocados

Leaves of ½ small bunch cilantro, minced

Juice and zest of 1 large lime

1 teaspoon salt

 

The (Optional) Burger Setup:

2 cups baby spinach leaves, washed and patted dry

3 pods pickled okra, cut into ¼-inch thick rings, optional

8 Giant Roasted Jalapeño Biscuits

Instructions

  1. Rinse the dried beans in a fine-mesh sieve and remove any debris. Soak beans in a large bowl or pot, with enough water to cover the beans by at least 6 inches. Let stand overnight.
  2. Drain the beans in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse until the water runs clear. Add the beans to a large saucepan and enough water to cover the beans by at least 8 inches. Do not add salt. Bring to a boil over high heat; then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 2 to 2½ hours, until the beans are soft but not mushy (the cooking time will be determined by the age of the beans—which you never know, so watch the pot and taste to see if they are done).
  3. While the beans are cooking, rinse the rice in a fine-mesh sieve under cold running water until the water runs clear. Drain and transfer to a small saucepan. Add 2 cups of the mushroom stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer cover and cook for 25 minutes. The rice will not quite be done, but remove from the heat and let stand and steam in the pot for at least 30 minutes, to finish cooking.
  4. While the rice is steaming, in a small bowl, combine the flaxseed and remaining 2 tablespoons stock and stir well to combine. Let stand for 15 to 30 minutes.
  5. When the beans are cooked, drain in a fine-mesh sieve. Pour into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, add the flaxseed mixture, pumpkin seeds, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, ancho and guajillo chili powder, garlic, salt, Worcestershire sauce, adobo sauce, and liquid smoke, if using, and pulse gently until chunky and combined.
  6. Add the rice to the processor and pulse for a few seconds to just combine, leaving pieces of rice intact.
  7. Scoop the mixture into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes, until chilled. (If you are serving this at a party, this can be prepared and refrigerated to 1 day before shaping and cooking.)
  8. Make the topping: place the cut shallots in a bowl of cold water to cover and let stand for 10 minutes. Drain in a fine-mesh sieve, rinse with cold water twice more, and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the corn and tomatoes and stir gently to mix. Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit (see Kitchen Tips), and cut the flesh into ¼- to ⅛-inch dice. Add the  cilantro, lime zest and juice and mix gently to combine.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
  9. Heat a griddle, cast-iron pan or heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat until it shimmers. Scoop ⅓ cup of the bean mixture into the pan to make a patty and repeat with 3 more patties. Press down gently with a spatula so they are less than 1 inch thick. Cook for 2 to 3  minutes on each side or until deeply browned. Remove from the pan with a spatula and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining bean mixture to make 4 more patties. Cut the biscuits in half and place a burger on each. Spoon a few tablespoons of the topping on each, add some spinach and okra, if using, and serve immediately.

Kitchen Tips

  1. For the cumin and cinnamon: Roasted spices are now available from major spice purveyors like McCormack at well-stocked grocery stores, or from a variety of manufacturers online and at spice and specialty shops. The improvement in taste, especially in this dish, is very real.  You may be tempted to simply use what you have on hand (which more often than not was very old even before you bought it) but the burgers will be far, far less vibrant in flavor, although they will still taste good. Fresh-toasting whole spices, grinding them and using immediately is always the best option. The exception is cinnamon sticks, which are very challenging in any home grinder, so feel free to use the commercial version without a pinch of foodie-guilt.
  2. For the chili powders: individual, named roasted chili powders, like guajillo and ancho, are available in specialty shops, spice shops and online. To toast whole dried chiles, place the whole guajillo and ancho chilies into a skillet set over high heat and toast on both sides, for 30 seconds per side, turning with tongs, until the skin darkens in some spots and lightens in others. Remove from the heat, and when the chilies are cool enough to handle, snap off the stems and shake all of the seeds onto a sheet of parchment paper or waxed paper. Roll the paper into a cone, folding it to close the hole in the bottom while you carry it. Transfer the seeds to the bowl of a spice grinder or a coffee grinder dedicated to spices and pulse, grinding until the seeds are completely powdered.
  3. The avocado contains a large round pit that can be awkward to remove. Here is one way that is especially good if you need to slice it: With a sharp knife, cut around the avocado lengthwise (you won’t be able cut straight through because of the pit). With a hand on each half, twist the halves in opposite directions to detach them. The pit will still be firmly attached to one side. Carefully dig the blade (not the tip) of your knife into the pit and twist to remove the pit. Peel and slice the avocado. If you will be holding the avocado for any length of time, acidulate the flesh with a little lemon or lime juice to prevent it from turning brown when exposed to the air.
  4. Chipotle chili is the name for the fiery smoked jalapeño. It is sold in a variety of formats, often canned in adobo sauce, a condiment made of chilies and spices. For a milder flavor, you can just use less than the recipe calls for. The remaining chipotles in adobo will keep, refrigerated in an airtight container, for 2 weeks.

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