Recipe courtesy of Veronica Chambers, Alexander Smalls, and JJ Johnson

Black Bottom Bean Cakes with Papaya Salsa

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 1 hr
  • Active: 30 min
  • Yield: 6 servings
At the turn of the century, the black bottom was a dance done by African Americans in the rural South. By the 1920s and the Jazz Age, it was so popular that it was featured in the Ziegfeld Follies. This dish, like that dance, has a similarly universal appeal. When I go out with a bunch of friends, we like to share dishes, and you don’t want just a bunch of meat on the table. But at home, it can be hard to break the habit of one big protein dish and a bunch of classic veggie sides. This one is simple: black beans made into cakes with cumin and cilantro, onions, and our mirepoix. The papaya salsa is the highlight, and again I can’t stay away from the bird’s-eye chile. It reminds me of the homemade hot sauce that sat on every table of my parents’ extended community of Caribbean family and friends.


Papaya Salsa:


  1. In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion, sprinkle with salt, and cook, stirring, until translucent around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the poblano pepper and scallions and sauté for 2 minutes. Stir in the cumin, cayenne, and paprika and let the spices toast for 2 additional minutes, then stir in the cilantro. Remove from the heat and place vegetables in a bowl.
  2. Add the black beans and 1/2 cup of the panko to the sautéed vegetables. Fold to combine, taste, and season with salt and pepper. 
  3. Form six 3-inch patties and follow the steps for preparing the patties for frying: 
  4. Flour: Put the flour in a flat dish (like a shallow bowl or pie plate) and dredge the patties until evenly coated, then shake off the excess flour. 
  5. Egg wash: Crack the eggs into a medium flat dish and whisk. Dip the flour-coated patties into the egg wash and cover on all sides. 
  6. Breading: Press the flour and egg–coated patties into a third tray of the remaining panko. Shake off the excess and place on a baking sheet while prepping the rest of the patties. 
  7. Heat the remaining 1/2 cup oil in a large cast-iron pan over medium-high heat until shimmering, about 2 minutes.  
  8. Place patties in the pan without overcrowding and fry until golden, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. 
  9. Serve with the salsa and plantain chips. 

Papaya Salsa:

  1. Gently mix together all of the ingredients in a medium bowl. Store in a covered nonreactive container. Makes 4 cups.