Costa Rican Black Bean Burgers

Fact: in Central America they eat their burgers on tortillas.

Back in July, the bro (hereafter known as “Hermano”) and I took a little jaunt on down to Costa Rica.  Cousin Katie has been rocking it with the Peace Corps down there for a little over a year, so we thought it was time to pay a visit.  We met in the San Jose aeropuerto on Friday night, fueled up with some gallo pinto on Saturday morning, and caught the 10:00am bus down south. After enjoying a lovely snack of Latin American wafers on the apex of El Cerrido del Muerte (the, um…Mountain of Death), we pulled into San Isidro in the early afternoon, just in time to catch another bus up to Quebradas, Katie’s home for the last year. Andrew and I used our combined 6 years of high school Spanish to ascertain bus fare (140 colones, or about 14 cents – take THAT, MTA fare hikes) and sufficiently befriend the bus driver such that he was kind enough to point out our stop while we were busy anthropomorphizing the local topography.

Can you spot the pregnant sleeping indian?

Our time in Quebradas was incredible.  Katie is doing such inspiring work – starting a Scouts troop for the local children (we actually arrived in Quebradas to Katie, decked out in full Scouts regalia, rounding up the troops for a kick-off event), helping to found a micro-finance club, teaching English and computer classes, and just walking up and down the main road of Quebradas chatting with everyone and providing help and advice about anything.  However, the Sunday we were in town was that most Costa Rican of holidays, El Quatro de Julio, so Katie, Hermano, cousin Liza (in CR for the summer catching tilapia and working on an organic farm) and I headed out to the beach town of Dominical to celebrate gringo style.  I could write pages about the ocean, the sand, the monkeys, the rainforest that doesn’t end until the beach begins, but this being a food blog and all I have to mention our (several) lunch(es) at Chapy’s. Because their smoothies are out. of. this. world. Imagine the freshest tropical fruits you’ve ever tasted blended together with just enough ice to chill the beverage but not nearly enough to water it down.  Add some ginger for flavor. Spend a day on the beach overheating and likely sunburning, take a seat on a deck with an (almost) ocean view and a fresh avocado sandwich, sip your smoothie, and feel more refreshed than a fish out of water…back in water?  I can do better than that.  After our second passion fruit-fueled lunch by the beach, we headed back to San Isidro/Quebradas to help teach English class, work in the school garden, experience FUDEBIOL, and, as promised by the title of this post, make some righteous black bean burgers.

Oh, but first we got caught in a rainstorm.  After hiking an hour or so uphill to visit FUDEBIOL (an environmental reserve where Katie helps out, teaches computer classes and can regularly walk through gorgeous mountain paths to visit stunning waterfalls), checking out said waterfall, eating some extraordinarily satisfying PB&J’s, and catching the rather grainy second half of Uruguay v. Netherlands on the bunny-eared tv up there, the heavens decided to open up, as they are wont to do during the, how do you say it? ah yes, rainy season, and unleashed the fury of a thousand oceans upon our heads.  And we still had to hike back down to town.  Fortunately, five minutes away Miguel drove by and offered us a ride.  Five minutes away from Katie’s apartment that is.  Needless to say we were quite soaked after 45 minutes in the downpour and in the mood for a hot and hearty meal.  Such as…black bean burgers?

Someone's in the kitchen with Liza...

Displaying that famous DeWitt family trait of coordination and efficiency, the four of us quickly split up into different tasks to prepare the feast. Liza sliced and diced veggies picked straight from the jardin del escuela that morning and tossed it all together into a fresh salad.  Marking the only time I’ve ever seen him wield a knife in the kitchen, Andrew sliced, scooped and mashed the avocado into tasty guacamole. But Katie and I were ready for the main event.  We whipped out her Cuisinart Mini-prep (no, this isn’t a shameless plug for someone to get me one for my next bday – I totally got one last year!) to mash up some black beans (we used canned since they were, well, ready, but I imagine doing the whole soak the dried beans overnight thing would be better texture-wise) and onions, stirred in variety of spices and diced peppers, as well as some bread crumbs and egg for binding purposes.  The mixture ended up a little on the wetter side, and I think could have benefited from straining the beans better and a rougher chop on the onions.  Regardless, we heated up some oil on the hot plate and fried those patties while Katie used her sweet tortilla warmer to heat up our bun replacements. Black bean burger on a tortilla with guac and some homegrown salad on the side is the perfect ending to a day in the rain.  Oh, and good pre-game fuel for some inter-city ladies futbol.

Katie and Liza led our team in scoring. As goal keeper, I led our team in letting the other team score.


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