Photo from The Ewan

On my weekly radio show, The Good Food Hour on KSRO in Sonoma County, we recently hosted a recipe contest featuring beans.  I am amazed and thrilled about the creative entries we recieved!

I have to admit, I’m a bit of a “bean head” and find this nutritionally perfect ingredient a true joy to work with in cooking.  People have been eating beans for thousands of years, and in that time thousands of varieties have been created in every color, shape and size imaginable.

I love to use them to make a flavorful hummus, which is much healthier than mayonnaise as a spread on sandwiches or used in dips.  I also love to puree them and add them to soups for a creamy texture without all of the fat.  Of course, one of the traditional standards and a big favorite of mine is a warm pot of baked beans.  My new way to create this is in the slow cooker which is easy and gives the beans great texture.

Bean Crepes with Chorizo Sausage & Potato Filling

Below is the winning recipe for the KSRO recipe contest, created by Bill Ardizoia.  His Pinto Bean Cakes with Meyer Lemon Mayonnaise were really flavorful and shows you how a humble can of pinto beans can be transformed into a great dish.  I was also a fan of our 2nd place winner’s recipe, Bean Crepes with Chorizo Sausage and Potato Filling from Kimberley Fetzer.  Her recipe as well as all of the top picks are posted on KSRO’s website if you’d like to try them for yourself.   And take a look at some of the fun we had during the contest judging.

What are your favorite ways to enjoy beans?

Pinto Bean Cakes with Meyer Lemon Mayonnaise

Pinto Bean Cakes with Meyer Lemon Mayonnaise

Yield: Makes 4 servings
Recipe by Bill Ardizoia

1/2 cup chopped onion, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil plus additional for brushing
1/2 cup bulgur
1 cup water
1 cup canned pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted, or hazelnuts, toasted and skins removed
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup packed cilantro sprigs
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Salt and pepper

Bread crumbs

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon grated Meyer lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon fresh Meyer lemon juice

4 slices multi-grain bread, toasted

PREPARATION: Cook half of onion with 1/4 teaspoon salt in oil in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Add bulgur and water and cook, covered, over low heat until water is absorbed, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and stir in beans and soy sauce.

Pulse bulgur and bean mixture, walnuts, garlic, cilantro, cumin, cayenne, a rounded 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and remaining onion in a food processor until finely chopped.

Form rounded 1/2 cups of mixture into four (3-1/2-inch-diameter) patties.
Chill at least 10 minutes. While patties chill, stir together mayonnaise, zest, and juice.

Cakes can be cooked on the stove. Dredge the bean cakes in bread crumbs to form a nice crust when frying. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers, then cook cakes, carefully turning once, until golden brown, about 8 minutes total.

Serve bean cakes open-faced on toast with Meyer lemon mayonnaise and some baby greens or lettuce.

Uncooked cakes can be chilled, covered, up to 4 hours.