Thursday, July 2, 2020

Vegan Red Beans and Rice

Vegan Red Beans and Rice are spicy (but not hot unless you want it that way), hearty and healthy - a perfect meal in a bowl you can make with hardy vegetables and pantry ingredients that feeds a crowd, or you for a week if you're stuck at home!

I have a soft spot for Cajun-style cuisine. Around here, it's mostly "white bread" country, as my city historically played host to blue collar automotive workers looking for cheap, hearty and simple fare. There is absolutely a place for it on the menu - N and I used to frequent a local "greasy spoon" diner before the virus hit - but given the choice I will almost always go for complex and spicy flavours. Since hitting up a House of Blues (where I have had the best jambalaya of my life so far) is out of the question, as is a trip to NOLA, I am content to make my own version at home - with a vegan twist.

Interestingly enough, this batch of comfort food only really came about because I was doing my quarterly pantry clean out and came across a bag of dried kidney beans from when I made minestrone ages ago. I always have TVP chunks and liquid smoke on hand, as well as some kind of rice, so I started the beans soaking while I looked up a red beans and rice recipe I could adapt. A few Google searches and some cobbling together later and I had a working plan.

In order to infuse the smoky flavour throughout the starchy beans, I both soaked and cooked the dry legumes with water spiked with liquid smoke, which I also added to the water the TVP chunks hydrated in. It is worth noting I am not a fan of the pickled pork flavour in traditional beans and rice so I skipped any vinegar, but if you enjoy it a tablespoon or so of apple cider vinegar would suffice. The rest of the spice flavour was layered into the bulk of the stew, balanced by the hearty vegetables and plain rice. The resulting mixture left just enough broth to spoon over each serving, which also soaked in to the leftovers we refrigerated overnight. Yes, like most stews and soups, this is truly a dish that benefits from patience (and a lot of it). On that note, I also beg of you to not use canned beans here - they will turn mushy and not yield the same depth of flavour from the smoke-soaked and cooked ones. If you can find a bag of small red beans at the store, use those instead - they are definitely better than kidneys in my opinion, but again, use what you have!

Vegan Red Beans and Rice
Serves 8
1 1/2 cups dried red kidney beans
1 1/2 tbsp liquid smoke, divided
water to cover

2 cups TVP chunks
3 cups cold water

1 tbsp canola oil
2 medium onions, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 large carrot, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 tbsp tamari
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
2 cups white Basmati rice
4 cups vegetable broth
5 oz frozen spinach
1 tbsp Mexican hot sauce (or 1/2 tsp cayenne)
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the beans, 1/2 tbsp liquid smoke, and enough water to cover by 2 inches. Cover and let sit overnight, then drain.
  2. Add beans to a pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches and the remaining liquid smoke. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer 1 hour, or until tender. Drain and set aside.
  3. Combine the TVP, 1 tsp liquid smoke and 3 cups cold water. Let stand 1 hour, but do not drain.
  4. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onions, celery and carrot.
  5. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables have slightly softened, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute, then stir in the tomato paste and cook 3 minutes more, until it slightly darkens.
  7. Add the salt, tamari, smoked paprika, pepper, and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  8. Stir in the rice to coat with the mixture, then add the broth and soaked TVP along with any liquid.
  9. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, until rice is almost done. Add a little water or broth if needed.
  10. Stir in the cooked beans, frozen spinach (no need to thaw) and hot sauce or cayenne.
  11. Cook 10 minutes more, until spinach is thawed and all the ingredients are well incorporated.
  12. Serve immediately or store in the fridge up to 4 days. Can be frozen.

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