Thursday, February 14, 2013

Red Beans and Rice

When I first became a vegetarian in college my mainstay was those bags of Zatarain's red beans and rice. In the many, many, many years since college I've come to avoid pre-packaged meals as much as possible. I've often looked at red beans and rice recipes, but reading over ingredient lists I've been left uninspired and I have to admit I've not tried a single one I've looked at. Maybe they all would have been delicious, but I just wasn't motivated by them to try. So, of course, I finally decided to make my own. I don't know how this ingredient list will strike you, but let me assure you it is very delicious. The recipe is not a lot of work, but it does take quite a long time for the beans and rice to cook. For that reason this is an excellent meal to make on the weekend when you have some extra time, then you can use the leftovers for lunches during the week.

About 1 lb. of small red beans (if it's a little over or under that's no big deal), sorted, soaked and rinsed
About 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
6 oz. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. yellow mustard
1 tsp. dried oregano
6 c. water, plus more added during the cooking process
1 c. rice
1 scant Tbsp. sea salt
1 pound container of fresh salsa (I got it in the deli section of the grocery store), or 1 recipe Pico de Gallo.

1. Lay the beans out on a large kitchen towel and sort through them removing any debris or discolored, broken, or  malformed beans. Rinse the beans to clean and then place them in a large bowl covered with 2-3 inches of water. Let them soak for at least 6 hours up to overnight. Once they have soaked, rise them in a strainer and set aside.

2. When the beans have been soaked and rinsed heat the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven. Add the onion and let it saute until soft, about 7 minutes.

3. When the onion is soft add the tomato paste, mustard and oregano. Let the tomato paste melt as you stir the mixture around to evenly coat all of the onions.

4. Once the tomato paste is distributed evenly over the onions add the beans and about 6 cups of hot water, or enough to cover the beans by about 2-3 inches, and bring to a boil.

5. Let the beans cook at medium boil (not a gentle simmer) for about 2 hours until they are completely soft, stirring occasionally and adding more hot water when it starts to evaporate too much. You want to keep the beans submerged in a lot of liquid so that they have room to move around in the pot and cook evenly.

6. When the beans are fully cooked but not falling apart, add 1 c. of rinsed brown rice and a little more water if necessary. Let it cook for 45 minutes longer, partially covered, and stir occasionally but keep an eye on it because you'll start letting the water evaporate at this point to form a thick sauce.

Here the salsa has just been added.
7. As the mixture boils only add more water at this point if it is about to dry out, but just enough to keep it boiling without drying out. Keep stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan at this point to avoid burning. When the rice is fully cooked, after about 45 minutes, add the entire container of fresh salsa and let it cook for 15 minutes longer as the liquid continues to evaporate into a thick sauce.

This is how thick the sauce should be.
 This makes 6-8 servings and tastes lovely topped with fresh Guacamole.

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