Small Bites Throwdown: Chipotle Black Bean Burger from Seasonal Chef Columnist Maria Reina


It’s been a very exciting couple of weeks for me. This coming Saturday I will be competing against fellow blogger JL Fields in a Farmers Market Throwdown. The evolution of this event was somewhat random and then took on a life of it’s own! A few weeks back I created a very tasty Cold Beet Soup that JL commented on. Being a vegan she is always on the look-out for new recipes to use for her clients. After a few email exchanges with out fearless leader Liz Johnson the friendly competition was born.

First, here’s a quick look at my entry in the Throwdown, the Chipotle Black Bean Burger:

And here’s where you can vote!

After the jump, find the recipe, and read about the inspiration behind my entry.

I thought it would be fun to go live to a farm in Westchester to choose our main ingredient. Larry and Marian at Amawalk Farm were happy to help.

Their farm is just lovely.

Here is Sam keeping an eye on us as we walk towards the field.

They told us they are growing Sweet Potatoes for the first time this year.

Here is the Kale patch … JL was very excited!

and here are their Rainbow Chard I used for my Cold Chard Soup.

Here is a fun pic of our husbands toting cameras and video equipment. They were such good sports that day while we walked around oohing and ahhing at all the marvelous vegetables!

We decided on Cipollini Onions

and Bunching Onions

I also came upon their beet patch. I picked a few of them too, wondering if I would be able to incorporate them somehow?

My mind was racing – what could I do? I will admit on the drive home at one point I looked over at Larry and said “What the heck was I thinking? How am I going to use onions??” To which he replied, “If you were on Chopped or Iron Chef America you would do it in a snap!” Very true! (My husband is a wise man!)

Once I got it all home I laid them out on the counter and started raiding my pantry: couscous … black beans … chipotle … I immediately thought “burger.” We also decided at the farm that I would make every effort to “vegan-ize” the recipe so JL’s constituents would be able to eat it too. The only animal product I would be using was egg, as the binder. No problem, the swap out for an egg is 1 tablespoon of ground flax plus 3 tablespoons of water.

So let’s get to my burger. This recipe is super easy and comes together in less than 30 minutes, especially if you have a food processor.

Saute bunching onion with jalapeño pepper.


Add in the beet, then mix it all together.

I used some beautiful cilantro that was in my CSA basket that week from Gaia’s Breath Farm.

We decided on two types of onions at the farm. The bunching went into the burger. I took the cipollinis and used them for a topping. The recipe for the topping is adapted from Bobby Flay’s Oaxaca Dog recipe. (Incidentally from a Throwdown he did!) I love his version and use it a lot for Larry. For this recipe I changed it up a little.

Here is my finished product. (The full recipe is below) I really think it’s a winner! The flavors really come together and pack a great flavor punch. I topped it with some Asiago cheese, but if you are vegan, that would be left off. Just for fun I did a short video clip making the burger. Check it out when you have a minute!

I hope you can come out and cheer me on this coming Saturday, August 11, at the John Jay Farm Market. We’ll be competing from 10:30 to 11:30 in the morning.

Buon Appetito!


Chipotle Black Bean, Couscous and Beet Veggie Burger
Makes 6 patties

1/2 cup couscous
1 garlic clove, cut in half
2/3 cup boiling water
3-4 Amawalk Farm Bunching Onion bulbs, about 3/4 cup chopped fine, tops reserved
2 teaspoons finely diced jalapeno
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
1/4 cup shredded raw beet from 1 medium beet
2 (15.5-ounce) cans of black beans, drained and rinsed, setting aside 1/2 cup
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
Zest of 1 lime and juice of half of it (reserve other half for the pickled onions)
1 egg beaten, or 1 tablespoon ground flax with 3 tablespoons of water
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Asiago Cheese, optional

Make the pickled onions first and set aside to cool. (See separate recipe.) If using ground flax substitute for the egg combine that now and set aside to absorb.

Place the couscous, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a small bowl. Pour the water over it and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 5 minutes.

In the bowl of a food processor chop the bunching onions but not quite to the liquid stage. They should be a little smaller than 1/4-inch dice. Place in a sauté pan with 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil along with the jalapeno, garlic and beet. Season with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper and sauté until most of the liquid evaporates. (Cook’s note: The mix should be soft and smooth, but not caramelized. Use a spoon to stir is around so the bottom doesn’t burn.) Turn off the heat and set aside to cool slightly. You should have about ½ cup of the onion-beet mixture when you are done.

Fluff your couscous up with a fork and place in a large mixing bowl. Break up any lumps with your fingers.

In the same food processor pulse the black beans until they are broken up. (Remember to keep 1/2 cup whole.) Add the pulsed beans to the couscous along with the egg or flax mixture, onion-beet mixture, whole beans, lime zest, lime juice, chopped chipotle and cilantro. Season with another teaspoon of salt and mix well.

Form into patties and pan fry in a non-stick pan with a little olive oil. You want to get a nice golden brown crust on both sides. After flipping the burger, add the the Asiago on top to melt slightly, if desired.

To serve spread plain mayo on the bun and top with lettuce, pickled onions and the reserved bunching onion tops.

Recipe created by Maria Reina of Bella Cucina Maria, exclusively for the August 11, 2012 John Jay Farm Market Throwdown. Visit her website at

Pickled Onions

2 Amawalk Farm cipollini onions sliced thin, or 1 small red onion
2 garlic cloves, sliced in half
1 teaspoon finely diced jalapeno pepper
12 leaves of cilantro roughly chopped, 2-3 stems
1/2 cup fresh lime juice from 2-3 limes
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon each of superfine sugar and kosher salt

Place the onion, garlic, pepper and cilantro in a non-reactive container. Then place the lime juice, vinegar, salt and sugar in a small glass measuring cup. Microwave the liquid on high for 1 minute. Pour over the onion mix and set aside to cool. Refrigerate the unused portion.

Adapted from Bobby Flays’s Oaxaca Hot Dog Recipe on






About Author

Seasonal Chef blogger Maria Reina comes to the world of food as a third career, spending a great portion of her adult life in the field of Human Resources. With her private company Bella Cucina Maria she is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Westchester. She's an avid food television watcher and cookbook collector, always looking for a new take on a traditional dish. In her free time she loves hanging out at local farmer's markets, chatting it up with the farmers and doing cooking demos with their seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog, which is loaded with easy recipes, you can follow her on Facebook (Bella Cucina Maria), Twitter (Bellacucinam), Instagram (Bellacucinam) and Pinterest (Bellacucinam).


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