Healthy Red Beans and Rice, authentic as a freshly painted pirogue.
Sometimes my husband calls and asks what's for supper, and I tell him "It's Monday." This is code for "red beans and rice", traditionally eaten on Monday in Louisiana, using the ham hock from Sunday dinner.
There's no ham hock here, not on Sunday or any other day of the week, but the beans are much better off without it. You can throw in some vegan sausage, if you're so inclined, or some cubed smoked tofu.
As for the beans themselves, try to find red beans, which are smaller and nicer than kidney beans. Pick them over and rinse them the night before—I often find bits of rock and dirt clods in my dried beans, and there's nothing worse than gritty beans. If you live at a high altitude, you will almost certainly have to soak your beans overnight. Lowlanders may get by with a quick soak the day of, but I usually opt for overnight soaking.
Whatever you do, don't make red beans and rice on Sunday, because that's considered bad luck. And you don't want the Cajun juju after you, trust me.
For directions, and more tips for avoiding Cajun juju, click below.
1 lb (or 500g) dried red beans, soaked overnight
2 onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
4 or 5 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
salt to taste
Optional: veggie sausage (kielbasa-style) or smoked tofu
3 cups cooked rice
Drain the soaking water off the beans and cover with fresh water in a large pan. Bring to a boil over a high heat, then reduce heat and let simmer, covered, for about an hour while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the chopped vegetables and saute over medium-high heat, for about 10 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic for the last 2 minutes.
Add the vegetables to the pot with the beans, and add the spices: Tabasco sauce, white pepper, thyme, oregano, cayenne, and black pepper. You can use the same skillet to fry some veggie sausage, if you're using that. If you're using smoked tofu, just add it to the beans without frying.
When the beans have cooked an hour, test them for doneness. They may need as much as two hours altogether, depending on the age of the beans as well as your altitude.
When the beans are done (the best way to tell is to taste them), add salt to taste. Do not add salt before this time, or the Cajun juju will get you. Also your beans won't get done.
Serve the beans over a mound of rice, scooped out with an ice cream scoop. Whether you use a bowl or a plate is entirely up to your discretion. (The juju are silent on this matter.)
Note: I used kidney beans, since red beans are scarce here. I also used converted white rice, which is a bit healthier than plain white rice, but you can certainly use brown rice. You could freeze the beans, and reheat them for Lent, after you've celebrated Mardi Gras with something more decadent.