I don’t know about you guys but here in Romania the weather has finally started to show signs of winter. The trees are getting barer and barer with every passing day and the day’s lows and highs are getting closer and closer to single digits. And you know what that means?
It’s time for cold weather food.
I know, I know, you can’t have a proper jambalaya without two things: sausage and shrimp. I too used to live and breathe by this fallacy and spent the first twelve months of being a vegan without one of my favorite spicy rice dishes. This Louisiana-based dish, as you can imagine, is not on the radar of your average Romanian but the parents LOVED it, which is thanks in part to my husband who took it WAY easy on the spice to make sure they could eat it.
The first thing you have to do if you want to veganize a dish like jambalaya is figure out what to use as a meat replacement. Some people use mushrooms and that’s next on my list to try but this time we went a little different and went protein for protein with…beans. Chickpeas and kidney beans were surprisingly a really great substitute, hearty and satisfying while absorbing all the delicious flavors of the rest of the dish.
As you can see from the photo this isn’t your traditional jambalaya with sliced carrots added in but that hint of sweetness is perfect if you want to add another teaspoon or two of cayenne pepper or scotch bonnet flakes. This version had no celery because this isn’t the United States and it’s not always easy to find everything you need all the time but there was onion, bell peppers (red & green), garlic, a mild jalapeno (seeds removed), three diced tomatoes with all the yummy juices.
Now for the beans. If you have dry beans cooked and ready to go then you’re ready to get cooking but if you’re staring down at two cans of beans then you need to drain and rinse. I go for the double rinse to make sure I get rid of any excess salt or flavor that might have been added, particularly to kidney beans, so I can start with as clean a flavor as possible.
Once you’ve got everything chopped and ready–Mise en place–then you’re ready to start this easy cooking process.
Full discloure: this dish contained NO oil, just a bit of water added to saute the onions, bell peppers and garlic. If you’re looking to remove excess fat and calories from your dishes, let the skillet/pot get hot and add the vegetables. Listen for the sizzle because that sizzle is amazing and fun and the sound of vegetable sugars being cooked. But if it starts to stick, add a couple tablespoons of water and stir.
Add tomatoes and garlic and cook for a few more minutes then add beans, herbs & spices and finally, the rice and liquid. Cook until the liquid is all gone or until the rice is cooked through. You should have a slightly thick consistency that’s savory and a little spicy…or a lot spicy if you’re like me and add some chopped jalapenos to the top of your dish.
This is the perfect dish for a cold winter’s day, especially if you’ve been out running around in the crisp air. Add an ice cold beer and you’ve got yourself a delicious, plant based meal guaranteed to satisfy your hunger!
We mixed it up with a couple of brown beers that were hearty, tasty and the perfect accompaniment to the two bean jambalaya.