Mondays always mean beans and rice
If you are attentive to the Catholic calendar, after all of the excitement of carnival, what follows is Lent. While this period between Mardi Gras and Easter generally involves restraint, it also sets in motion a fascinating culinary adventure. Consider religious festivals, like Sicily’s St. Joseph’s Day.
It features a dazzling array of vegetarian dishes. In formerly-French New Orleans, these social mores are acknowledged. People drink less, consume less meat, and contemplate the relationship between pleasure and responsibility.
Throughout the year, every Monday means red beans and rice in New Orleans. Regardless of the restaurant you choose for lunch, it will be on the menu. Increasingly, it is now possible to find vegetarian versions. Reading through historical accounts of New Orleans cooking, even when it contains meat, red beans and rice is modest food, of poverty. Meat is there as flavor, not the focus of the meal. In this version, the beans, the protein-compliment with the rice, and the hot sauce and vinegar are the stars.
Slow Down for Meatless Monday with Red Beans and Rice
Ark of Taste ingredients: Hidatsa Red Bean or Jacob’s Cattle Bean, wine vinegar (Orleans method), Carolina Gold Rice
Serves 4-6 people
453g dried Red beans (available to grow from Slow Food partner)
227g, dried Carolina Gold rice (available to eat from Slow Food partner)
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 celery stalks, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
2 TBS of butter or olive oil
2 bay leaves
2 tsp oregano
½ tsp red pepper flakes or cayenne powder
½ tsp ground white or black pepper
2 tsp liquid smoke
Salt to taste
Once served season with
Tabasco Hot Sauce, to taste
A pinch of fresh, chopped parsley
Wine vinegar (Orleans method available from Slow Food partner)
Walk New Orleans neighborhoods on Sundays this time of year, and with the windows open, chances are, you will smell the luscious scent of red beans simmering on stovetops. Traditionally, it’s a dish that starts on Sunday, and enjoyed on Monday. Nowadays, with the use of crock-pots and Instantpots, you can accelerate the cooking time. However, much of what takes time actually requires very little work (other than checking on the beans as they cook down, adding water occasionally, stirring as well). As for beans, look for the Ark of Taste beans, but they are not always easy to find. Beans are good news for carbon sequestration, so cook with what you have, but please opt for dry beans. They are simply not that much more difficult to work with than canned.
Beans: Assuming you are cooking the old-fashioned way, there are ways to move the process forward. First, clean and soak the beans overnight. Once cooked, red beans get creamy. However, they take some time to cook (unlike lentils or split peas, which are softer and cook more quickly). Do this on Saturday, so that come Sunday morning, drain the water and let the red beans stand until ready to be added to the big pot. In a big pot and over a medium heat, brown the onions, garlic, bell pepper and celery in oil or butter. Stir frequently, to prevent sticking. Add 2-3 cups of water, and bring to a boil, adding the rest of the ingredients, including the beans. Bring down to a low heat, cover and let cook for at least an hour or more. Add more water, if needed. Eventually, the beans will break down and turn the broth creamy. Add salt and more pepper to taste.
Rice: If you use a rice cooker, you know what to do. If you don’t, make rice as usual. You want it to be fluffy and added to the dish when at least warm, if not hot. I like the granddaddy of American long rices, Carolina Gold, because it is delicious and on the Ark of Taste.
To serve: I recall deep bowls, filled with creamy red beans served with an ice cream scoop of rice plopped atop, sprinkled with parsley and then seasoned with vinegar and hot sauce. In recent years, it has become more in vogue to serve in wide, shallow bowls. Fill the surface with creamy red beans and then take a ramekin. Fill it with the hot rice, and then place it in the middle of the “sea” of red beans. Sprinkle with fresh parsley, vinegar and hot sauce. It makes Monday evenings seem almost elegant.
–> This recipe is part of the Meat the Change campaign, carried out to raise awareness among producers and consumers about the environmental impact of meat consumption and production. Find out more here
–> To learn more about Meatless Monday: Watch the videos about how it is going global; and the tour of Terra Madre. To join us, submit a recipe of your own via email ([email protected]). If you prepare this week’s recipe, post images online using the hashtags #MeattheChange and #MeatlessMonday.