Friday, September 23, 2011

Vegan Cajun-spiced Dirty Rice

Who can turn down a good challenge? When Slow Food USA announced the $5 Meal Challenge to prove that “slow food shouldn’t cost more than fast food,” I was game. Right away, Shelley made plans to host a potluck and ground rules were set. To keep the total cost of each meal at or below $5, and assuming there would be starters, mains, sides, and desserts brought to the potluck, each serving needed to be $1.25 per person or less for a four course meal. That meant that for a dish intended to serve ten people, the total ingredient cost had to be $12.50 or less. Fortunately for me, I had just received a review copy of Quick-Fix Vegan by Robin Robertson which will be released on October 4th. When I want healthy, affordable, slow food, I turn to local, sustainable, and mostly plant-based dishes, so this book arrived right on time. Every dish in the book from starters to pasta to soups, sandwiches, salads, baked dishes, and desserts, can be on the table quickly. There are also great tips for how to stock your pantry and for preparing dishes in advance and then just baking them right before mealtime. A few of those quick dishes include coconut-curry chickpeas and cauliflower, spicy smoked portobello tacos, Indonesian satay sandwiches with peanut sauce, and ginger-cashew chocolate truffles. For the $5 Meal Challenge, the cajun-spiced dirty rice sounded like a healthy, flavorful dish to easily feed a crowd.

Now, I have to make a confession. This book’s intention is to offer meals that can be made with a minimum of fuss, but in the interest of keeping the cost down, I took a couple of extra steps. I bought organic, dried, red beans and cooked them myself, and I made my own vegetable broth. However, by doing those two steps in advance, actually the preparing the rice dish was quick and easy. I used local onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms, and the other ingredients were all organic, and the total cost per serving came in just a cent or two under $1.25. The classic Cajun trinity of bell pepper, onion, and celery was cooked first and created a base layer of flavor. Garlic, mushrooms, and a Cajun spice blend were added next and allowed to cook. Last, brown rice, red beans, vegetable broth, and salt and pepper were added. The mixture was transferred to a baking dish, and it was baked for about an hour.

Traditional Cajun dirty rice includes sausage and/or chicken giblets in rice cooked with chicken stock. Here, the ‘dirtiness’ came from beans and mushrooms, and the rice was cooked with vegetable broth. When a couple of the omnivore potluck attendees mentioned they wouldn’t have known the dish was vegan if I hadn’t told them, I took that as high praise. The aromatics and Cajun spice mix flavored the rice really well, and this is a dish that just gets better as it sits, so it’s perfectly suited to a potluck.

Cajun-spiced Dirty Rice
Re-printed from Quick-Fix Vegan with publisher’s permission

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, minced
1 celery rib, minced
1 green bell pepper, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces mushrooms, finely chopped
2 teaspoons Cajun spice blend
1 cup quick-cooking brown rice
1 ½ cups red beans or 1 (15 ounce) can, rinsed and drained
2 cups vegetable broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a three-quart baking dish and set aside. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and bell pepper. Cover and cook to soften, five minutes. Add the garlic, mushrooms, and Cajun spice blend. Stir to combine and cook until softened, two minutes. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Stir in the rice, beans, broth, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover tightly and cook in the oven until the rice is tender, about 50 minutes. Serve hot.




32 comments:

  1. Very tasty looking! I love that kind of homey food. So satisfying.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  2. Dirty rice...the name has caught my attention ;-)) It looks really delicious!

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  3. Nothing more delicious than steamed mussels or steamed clams in a simple broth with some bread on side.

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  4. ya just had to go and make it a little more complicated, didn't ya!??! :) this is a great batch of rice, lisa--i like the spices!

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  5. Many of the best foods have simple, homemade ingredients. Thanks for showing us it doesn't have to be gourmet to be delicious!

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  6. Ah ha... what a challenge! I don't think I can cook this at least 5 dollar. Bell paper is very expensive here about $3.99/pound. Anyway you cook delicious food!

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  7. Wow what a fun challenge! This dish looks delicious...truly that first photo is stunning.

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  8. I love everything about this challenge! what a feast you had, I am sure!! And this rice looks really tasy :D

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  9. Scrumptious flavours! This looks so good!

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  10. Just mouthwatering...looks so easy to prepare and delicious.

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  11. Looks fabulous Lisa! I'm a huge fan of beans and rice in any guise.

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  12. I admit I did not like the name dirty rice at first, but now I've realized I clicked onto it all because of the catchy name... The writeup and the pictures did not disappoint me either. With something as complete a meal as this, I wouldn't mind getting dirty...

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  13. These rice look absolutely nice!! gloria

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  14. Love the idea of a vegan version of dirty rice which has always been too heavy for my taste! Love also how you took the extra steps of making your own broth which makes such a difference in the final taste! Bravo.

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  15. Eric loved your dirty rice- of course, he ate it the next day along with the leftover pork belly so he kind of put the kibosh on the vegan part. It was so good it didn't even taste vegan (not to slam vegan food, of course)!

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  16. Not only does it look delicious, but it's healthy... yummy

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  17. Lisa, This post is inspiring on so many levels. I love that you cooked an inexpensive, healthy and super tasty meal all at the same time. And this kind of make-ahead comfort food is just right!
    Cheers,
    Erin

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  18. That's quite a challenge, Lisa. But you met it with gusto! I think it's brilliant you made your own veggie broth AND the beans; the flavor couldn't help but be that much better.
    It's a beautiful dish...healthy, inexpensive and doable.

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  19. My La native husband would love this! I love how it's all natural and so healthy--most "comfort" food is calorie-laden!

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  20. Now that its getting cooler outside, something like this is incredibly comforting. I am so impressed at all the trouble you went through to make this, it was a real labour of love.
    *kisses* HH

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  21. this looks awesome! perfect for dinner all week :)

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  22. Looks great- am planning on making this later this week! Can you share what spices constitute a 'cajun spice mix'? thanks!

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  23. So much of the world's best cuisines are poor man's cooking - and meant to be cheap, nutritious and healthy. How did we ever move away from that? I love dirty rice and love the addition of beans which really does make it a meal! Great challenge, great dish, Lisa!

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  24. Anonymous: Thanks! One brand name of a Cajun spice mix is Tony Chachere's. What I used was an organic Cajun spice blend from the bulk spices at Whole Foods.

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  25. would using regular rice work as well? or even left over rice?

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  26. Anonymous: White rice would work too, but you do need to use uncooked rice. It absorbs the broth and all the flavors as it cooks in the oven.

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  27. OMG, I just made this. It is delicious! I pulsed the mushrooms in the food processor...and went a little too far : ) I ended up with minced button mushrooms. But what a lovely accident...the mushrooms provided an almost buttery flavor and aroma to the dish! Yum! My changes: I cooked this on the stovetop, used leftover frozen (and thawed rice), skipped the oil and used just enough veggie broth to keep everything from sticking to the wok/keep everything moist. Thanks for a great recipe!

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  28. This may sound stupid but can the rice be cooked ahead of time for this recipe or should it be uncooked? Also, can you sub for regular white rice? Thanks

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    1. The rice needs to be uncooked. The grains of rice absorb the broth as it cooks. But, yes, you could use white rice instead of brown.

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  29. Thanks much for this recipe

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