We've all had them before.  Just about anybody who has ever eaten more than a few vegetarian meals has probably eaten a black bean burger.  I've always been quite fond of the protein-packed patties, but most of the store-bought versions really fail to satisfy.  Even the all-natural black bean burgers usually have an ingredient list that is far too long for me to feel good about (and often has a lot of unnecessary soy or corn-based fillers), not to mention the texture is usually dry and over-firm.

These black bean, zucchini and roasted garlic cakes, on the other hand, might become your new favorite meat alternative!  They are perfectly moist, thanks to the addition of shredded zucchini and the roasted garlic gives them a wonderfully savory aroma and flavor.  They have a nice, soft texture on the inside but get a crispy coating of panko to give them some crunch.  I served mine with Romaine and Radish Slaw and Cilantro-Lime dressing to make for a really fresh, crunchy and tasty meal.  The recipe can easily be doubled and the leftovers frozen, which makes for a super-quick and easy meal later on in the week. 

Black Bean, Zucchini and Roasted Garlic Cakes
makes 8 cakes

1 garlic bulb
2 T olive oil
4 cups black beans, soft-cooked
1 1/2 cups zucchini, shredded and blotted dry with a towel (about 1 medium zucchini)
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder
1 egg
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the oven to 450 degrees.  Slice about 1/4 inch from the top of the garlic bulb so that a little bit of each bulb is exposed.  Add olive oil to a small ramekin and place the garlic bulb, cut side-down, in the ramekin.  Roast garlic until it becomes fragrant and soft, about 30-40 minutes.  Leave oven on and allow bulb to cool for at least 15 minutes.  Once cooled, squeeze garlic bulb from the bottom so the garlic cloves pop out of their skins.  Mash garlic with a fork to make a paste.

Next, assemble your cakes.  Add beans, garlic paste, zucchini, 1/2 a cup of the bread crumbs and spices to a large bowl.  Using your hands or a potato masher, mash the ingredients together until combined.  Season with salt and pepper and taste.  Adjust seasoning, if desired.  Lightly beat the egg with a fork then add to your bean mixture.  Mix well and set aside.
Brush a large baking sheet with olive oil and heat in the oven for at least 5 minutes.  Place remaining 1 cup of bread crumbs on a medium-sized plate.  Divide bean mixture into 8 balls.  Taking one ball at a time, flatten into a patty and coat each side with bread crumbs.  Place each patty on the heated baking sheet and place in the 450-degree oven.  Bake until the bottom of the cake becomes golden and crispy, about 12-15 minutes.  Flip the cakes and bake another 10-13 minutes.  Allow to cool, slightly, then serve atop the slaw (recipe below) with an extra drizzle of dressing, if desired.