The Columbia Area Career Center Culinary Arts Program (CACC Culinary) has been involved with Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture (CCUA) and its fall harvest festival, the Hootenanny, for the past five years. It is a showcase of local food and urban agriculture. We normally have a few dozen students who come to the event, but almost every student in the program helps in some way with the preparation. The day of the event, our four chefs and two dozen demi chefs arrive with enough food to feed more than 1,000 people. We set up our temporary kitchen with dishwashing sinks, handwashing sinks and barbecue grills. After a visit from the health department, we get started on the impending meal.
Each year we have a variety of protein choices in the meal along with some sides: local chicken, local burgers and local pork, and we always have a vegetarian option. The vegetarian option has been tempeh, veggie burgers and veggie meatballs, and last year we added a new one: black bean burgers.
Our chefs split up the duties of the meal and prepare their components with students at their respective schools. We have three locations with students in the CACC Culinary Program: CACC/Rock Bridge High School, Hickman High School and Battle High School. The tasks change each year depending on how many students are at each location and what items need to be made. Last year Chef John Minor was tasked with coming up with the black bean burger. We knew that the vegetarian item would be popular; he would need to make several hundred portions. He tinkered with it and came up with a recipe that was a hit — so much so that he will be making them for the “Hoot” again this year.
Vegetarian Black Bean Burgers
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
15-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water
1 to 2 tablespoons hot sauce
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
1 to 2 cups panko crumbs (could be replaced with gluten-free breadcrumbs to make gluten-free)
Olive oil as needed to bake or sauté
Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes until fragrant. Add drained/rinsed beans and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes. In a separate bowl, mix cornstarch and water, and whisk until smooth. In another bowl, mix hot sauce, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Mix in bean mixture (mash at least half of the beans to help bind the burger; some can be left whole).
Slowly mix in panko until all the moisture is soaked up and the mixture forms a mass. Taste mixture and season with more salt, pepper or hot sauce as needed.
Spoon mixture onto oiled sheet tray, making four to five burgers. Press to flatten top and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes in preheated oven. Flip, then cook 6 to 8 minutes more.
Make four to five burgers by spooning mixture into a sauté pan with a thin, even layer of oil; press to flatten top. Cook over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes until the bottom becomes brown; flip and cook another 4 to 5 minutes until the other side is evenly brown.
Serve on buns or on their own. Top with your favorite condiments and enjoy.
Burgers can be baked for half the time the day before. Either bake or sauté the next day to eat. Gluten-free breadcrumbs (preferably Japanese-style panko) can replace normal panko bread crumbs to make the burger gluten-free.
Brook Harlan is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. He is a culinary arts instructor at the Columbia Area Career Center.