Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Red Beans and Rice: A Celebration of New Orleans for Ash Wednesday

New Orleans culture crept into our family when my cousin chose Tulane for her undergraduate studies.  She was excited to start her freshman year and move into her dorm in August 2005.  The school forced them to evacuate.  Hurricane Katrina came. Everything changed.

And so began our relationship with New Orleans.  I first visited two years ago on a trip with my mom and aunts to visit my cousin during her senior year.  The architecture, culture, food, and floodlines grabbed my attention. 

Unforgettable: beignets at Cafe Du Monde...
luscious bits of fried dough buried under a pile of powdered sugar.

By the time our flight landed in New Orleans, I had just read most of the book Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin.  The convergence of these two experiences - reading the book and visiting New Orleans - resulted in my recipe for Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice.

Don't you want to climb up to this balcony to watch the parades?

This is a hearty, wholesome, and delicious recipe to help you celebrate the culture of New Orleans as Mardi Gras ends and we enter Lent.  Enjoy!

Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 Spanish onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes, fire roasted
  • 16 oz can diced tomatoes, fire roasted
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 60 oz red beans
  • 1 T creole seasoning such as Tony Cachere's
  • 1 sprig of thyme, leaves stripped off the stem
  • Black pepper and Kosher salt, to taste
  • Brown rice
  • In a Dutch oven or large soup pot, heat the olive oil and add the onions.  Saute the onions for 3-5 minutes, allowing them to become transluscent but not brown.  Add the garlic and saute another minute.
  • Add the bell pepper, bay leaf, tomatoes, and vegetable stock.  Simmer until the vegetables are soft.
  • Add the beans and remaining seasoning.  Continue to simmer another 20-30 minutes, allowing the flavors to blend. 
  • Taste for seasoning and adjust according to your preferences.  For additional spice, add a few drops of Tabasco sauce.  (I prefer the Chipotle Tabasco because it adds a hint of smoky flavor with the spice.)
  • Remove the bay leaf and serve with brown rice that was prepared according to package directions.
To freeze:
  • Allow the food to cool to room temperature. 
  • For best results, package the rice separately from the red beans.  Use a plastic storage container, covered glass casserole dish, or plastic zip-top bag to store the food.
  • Label the outside of the package with the name of the dish and the date it was frozen.  I also add important notes such as "vegetarian, "vegan," or "dairy free" so I can remember how it was prepared.
  • When it is time to enjoy the frozen meals, allow it to thaw in the refrigerator overnight and then heat in a pan on the stove.  Add a few tablespoons of water to the rice; heat it slowly in a covered pot to restore its original fluffiness.

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