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Updated Southern Cooking
John Tullock

Some food ideas are so good that they crop up again and again in different cuisines. Such is the case with beans and rice. Here in Tennessee, pinto beans replace the red beans, and in Florida the bean of choice is black turtle beans, but the basic idea is the same: cook the beans, the combine them with meats and vegetables and serve over rice. ďRB&RĒ is traditionally served on Mondays in New Orleans households. But we need not be slavishly bound by tradition, now do we? If you agree, you will make and enjoy this recipe, even (gasp!) on a Friday. One caveat: my rendition of red beans and rice is about as traditional as bacon at a bar mitzvah, so donít try to pass it off as the real thing to a genuine Creole person.

While this dish can be made completely vegetarian (see below), most traditional recipes call for ham and/or sausage. One of its beauties, though, is the amenability of this recipe to variation, and I have chosen to use ingredients that are likely to be in your pantry or refrigerator. The recipe makes four servings, and is easily doubled. It reheats well.

Johnís Heretical Red Beans and Rice

In a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, brown 1/2 pound lean ground beef in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. As you cook, break up the beef into small pieces, sprinkling it with Creole seasoning and a pinch of dried thyme leaves. When the beef is browned, add 1/2 cup each chopped onions, celery and green bell peppers, along with a bit more Creole seasoning, and saute until the onion is translucent. Add a minced clove of garlic. Saute one minute. Add 1/2 cup long grain rice and saute a minute longer, or until the rice is coated with oil. Add 1-1/2 cups beef stock, stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Drain and rinse a 15 ounce can of red beans and add them to the pot when the rice is done. Stir well over low heat until the beans are heated through and the rice is fluffy. Serve topped with chopped scallions and pass hot sauce.

For a vegetarian version, use your favorite ground beef substitute and vegetable stock. For a traditional Creole flair, use Andouille sausage instead of ground beef and cook the beans from scratch with a ham hock for flavoring. Do not drain the beans, but rather use their cooking liquid instead of the stock called for in the recipe. Do not add the rice to the pot, but cook it separately. Creole and Cajun cooks make RB&R more like a thick bean soup with chunks of sausage, and serve it ladled over the rice.

John Tullock is an expert gardener and self-taught cook who likes to develop new recipes using his own fresh produce and the best from the local market. His interest in plants and horticulture begin in childhood, and he holds a masters degree in biology from The University of Tennessee. Now a full-time freelance writer and author of six books, Tullock also co-owns "Gardener and Gourmet," a retail business that specializes in rare plants and fine food products.

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