Cooking For Others: Missing Menus

DISH: Black Bean Cakes
EVENT: Caitlyn’s Birthday
/ Black Bean Cakes
Main Course / Carne Asada
or Baja Fish Tacos or Chipotle Vegetarian Chili or Mexican Shepherd’s Pie
Salad / Spinach Salad with Corn, Avocado, and Cilantro Citrus Vinaigrette
Dessert /
Cinnamon-Mocha Dulce de Leche Bites

We got a fabulous suggestion from a reader the other day to add in pairing suggestions for dishes that are not written about in the context of a meal or party. “As someone who is not quite as seasoned at putting meals together,” said Jenny, “when I cook a new recipe, I’ve started to ask myself, other than the meal that you’ve presented, what else would this be good with?” This is an awesomely valid question, and one that we don’t always address here on BGSK. Most of the time our Recipe Flashes are not stand-alone dishes, and have ended up in this category because they were borrowed from a meal that had no greater (narrative) purpose other than to feed us.

These particular Bean Cakes, I’ve served several times as part of a cocktail party buffet. The last time, when this photo was taken, was for Caitlyn’s birthday where they stood alongside Curried Sweet Potato Quesadillas, and Siracha-Lime Chicken Sliders. It was a fabulous night of friends and food, but it was also over three months ago. For whatever reason, I never got around to writing about the party as a whole, even though I’m sure I could have found plenty of antics to flesh out a post. As it has for many a BGSK event, the moment to celebrate Caitlyn’s on the blog has definitely lapsed.

So here we are, with a recipe for some delicious Latin birthday bites, but without a context at the table. To offer one for these cakes, and a proper suggestion for all eager start-to-finish meal-makers like Jenny, see our menu suggestions above. These cakes are great as cocktail fare, if you, too, are missing a context, but they also make a great appetizer for a Mexican or Southwestern themed dinner. For this, a great main course would be Carne Asada, Chipotle Vegetarian Chili , or Baja Fish Tacos, where you can use the crema on both elements! Alongside, a simple salad with Cilantro Citrus Vinaigrette; for dessert, some crunchy, candy-loaded cookies, and you’ve got a meal.

Please look for these menu pairings in posts to come, as we formulate ways for you to enjoy our menu-less dishes as one aspect of a delicious and complete meal.

From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,


p.s. We love love love your comments and suggestions! Please continue to contact us at biggirlssmallkitchen[at]gmail[dot]com or drop us a line in the comment section of the blog.


Black Bean Cakes with Mango-Lime Crema
Makes about 20 cakes

These cakes are very versatile. They can be pan-fried or baked, depending on the texture you prefer. If you don’t want to take the time to make the crema, you can easily serve these with a dollop of Plain Jane sour cream.


For the cakes:

2 15oz cans black beans
2 garlic cloves
½ lime, juiced
1 tbsp sour cream
¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp cayenne
1 tsp salt

For the crema:

3/4 cup sour cream
½ mango, finely diced
1 tbsp shallot, chopped
1 tbsp lime juice
¼ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp salt

In a food processor, blend the garlic, 1 can of beans, lime juice, and sour cream until moderately smooth. Transfer to a mixing bowl and fold in the remaining ingredients. Mix until properly combined.

With clean hands, form the bean mixture into 1 inch balls and set aside on a plate. Chill the balls for twenty minutes or so.

For the crema, combine a third of the mango, and all remaining ingredients in a food processor. Transfer to a bowl an fold in the rest of the mango.

NOTE: everything up to this point can be prepared the night before.
Heat a skillet over a medium-high flame, adding a healthy layer of olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Once the bean cakes have cooled, remove from the refrigerator. Pan-fry the bean cakes, making sure to press each down into a round patty as you add them to the pan. Cook until dark brown and crispy on both sides. Reserve on a paper towel until cool enough to handle.

Alternatively, you can bake the cakes on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until they have crisped up (the outside will resemble falafel).

Arrange cakes on a platter, and serve room temperature with a dollop of mango-lime crema on top and some torn cilantro leaves for garnish.

Posted in: Cooking for Others
  • Kate

    How important is the sour cream to the cakes? I assume it is there as a binder, but what else might you suggest to substitute?

  • Leora

    Could you use plain yogurt as a substitute?

  • Phoebe and Cara, The Quarter-Life Cooks

    Plain yogurt would be an excellent substitute for both the binding and the crema. As a condiment, it would be more similar to the raita I put on my chickpea burgers, but I'm sure it would taste equally delicious with mexican spices. Another binder could be mayonnaise, which I often use in my burgers and crab cakes to add moisture.

  • the ungourmet

    These looks so terrific! I love the sound of that mango lime crema too!

  • Jenny

    The recipe calls for 2 cans of beans but the directions only for 1 can. Which is correct?

  • Jenny

    Okay, so I just made these (using 1 can of beans) and they were totally delicious. Just a few questions:

    1. When it came time to flip the cakes in the pan, the bottoms stuck, ripping the entire bottom layer off the cake. It wasn't a big deal since it re-fried, but I'm wondering if this might have happened because I needed more oil at the outset? Or could I just flip several times so nothing gets a chance to stick?

    2. My crema was much more runny than yours appears to be in the photo. Wondering if I over-blended in the food processor?

    3. Finally, one of my "tasters" loved this recipe but isn't a giant mango fan so ate tons without the topping. If you were going to go in another directions for the crema, could I make it a sour cream/cilantro thing, or would that be too much in the cilantro department? Or maybe some guacamole or something with avocado as a topping? Thoughts?

  • Phoebe and Cara, The Quarter-Life Cooks

    Hi Jenny,

    Apologies for the can confusion: I actually did you two cans, but only blended one in the food processor. This allows for half of the beans to function as a binder without loosing the texture of the beans themselves completely. Glad to hear it turned out well anyway.

    The crema might have been more runny depending on the size an water content of the mango you used. Next time I would recommend blending the other ingredients first and then adding the mango in a little bit at a time until you reach the desired consistency. If you want it less watery, perhaps just fold in the diced mango at the end. And in the case of this taster, leaving it out altogether is fine too. I make something similar with cilantro as well (great suggestion!)

    see here for that recipe:

    thank you for all the great questions!

  • kay real

    Why is this listed in the gluten free section when it calls for bread crumbs?

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