Two of my dear friends happen to be from New Orleans. They are both passionately attached to the Louisiana cuisine of their childhoods but, when it comes to cooking, they couldn’t be more different. Holly is a svelte Southern belle who makes lighter versions of her mother’s Creole standards. Jeff sticks to his River Road Recipes cookbook with the precision of a surgeon — bacon drippings, sausage, and all.
As the sun was setting one warm evening last week, I was craving something spicy and Southern, like jambalaya. Could I lighten it up for a summer meal without compromising its character?
Heeding Holly’s recommendation to use a Dutch oven (the perfect opportunity to pull out my All-Clad nonstick cast iron beauty), I began to build the base with a classic Southern trinity — onions, celery, and peppers. Then, in a break from tradition that would make Jeff shudder, I swapped olive oil for the butter roux and meatless sausages for bacon and pork, adding zucchini from my garden and brown rice for added texture.
As the vegetables cooked down, I added Holly’s favorite Creole seasoning and Jeff’s secret flourish, a can of cheap beer. A half hour later, as I uncovered the pot, a gust of spices engulfed my kitchen, and my feisty Southern dinner was good to go.
By the book? Definitely not. But, at least in my kitchen, tradition can be deliciously twisted.
3 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil, divided
6 ounces vegetarian sausage (I like Yves Veggie Brats.), sliced 1/4-inch thick
3 ounces vegetarian Chorizo sausage (I like Yves Veggie Brats.), crumbled
1/2 yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 scallions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped green (or red) pepper
2 zucchini (about 6 ounces), diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1-2 teaspoons Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning (depending on how much spice you like)
2 cups long grain brown or white rice
2 cups water
1 (12-ounce) can cheap beer
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, for garnish
1. In a Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot with a cover, heat a tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Brown the sausages and set aside. Heat the remaining oil and add the onion, scallions, garlic, celery, pepper, and zucchini; cook until soft and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the Creole seasoning and continue to cook another 2 minutes. Add the rice and toast for a minute or two until coated.
2. Add the water, beer and tomato paste and stir to distribute. Bring to a boil, add the cooked sausage, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover, and cook until the rice is tender and has absorbed all the liquid, about 30 minutes (Add more water if necessary.). Do not stir; instead, fluff the rice with a fork, incorporating the parsley just before serving. Serve with your favorite hot sauce (I like Cholula.).
For more 1-pot vegetarian meals, try my Quinoa Salad with Feta, Tomatoes, Corn and Olives; Sweet and Sour Glass Noodle Soup with Tofu and Fennel; and Tofu Tikka Masala.
Nothing says summer like a freshly baked pie! Share your favorite recipe with our readers and you could win an autographed copy of my cookbook, Summertime Anytime, along with a surprise cooking utensil!
Photo credit: tastespotting.com