I fell in love with red beans and rice while living in Memphis, Tennessee. I was attending law school at the time and food was one of the ways I dealt with stress, both through cooking and trying new things. One of my classmates and I would occasionally get together to study and cook. While studying for a particularly grueling tax law final one day, she whipped up her quick and easy, “Tennessee-style” (she was from Chattanooga) version of red beans and rice to help us get through the evening.
She started by sautéing some sausage, then adding onion, green bell pepper, celery, garlic, some herbs, salt and pepper. Next she added some canned red kidney beans (instead of dried beans, which cuts down a ton on cooking time) and some broth and let everything simmer. At one point she ladled some of the beans out of the pot into a bowl and mashed them up with a fork, explaining that this would give the finished dish a richer texture and taste.
When the beans were done, she folded in some steamed long grain rice and gave me a bowl full. We added some hot sauce (Crystal hot sauce is the only way to go, according to her) and dug in. Hearty and filling—comfort food at its finest. We both did really well on that final. I give all the credit to those red beans and rice.
This recipe is based on the one she made, but with a few changes. I made it without the traditional sausage, so that it could be lighter and a better accompaniment to something cooked on the barbecue. I also added some fresh California avocado at the end because, well, basically everything is better with avocado added.
Red Beans and Rice with California Avocado
Serves: 6-8 servings
Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Total time: 40-50 minutes
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely sliced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 large bay leaf
1 tsp. fine grain sea salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper, to taste
2 (15 oz.) cans light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 ½ cups unsalted vegetable broth
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. liquid smoke (optional)
4 cups warm, steamed white long grain rice
2 ripe, Fresh California Avocados, seeded, peeled, and cut into chunks
Fresh cilantro leaves, to garnish
1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion, bell pepper, and celery until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to sauté until it is fragrant, about 1 minute.
2. Stir in the thyme, oregano, bay leaf, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Next add the kidney beans, vegetable broth, and apple cider vinegar.
3. Increase the heat to high. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the saucepan, and let the mixture simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Ladle about 1 cup of the beans into a bowl and use a fork to mash them, then stir them back into the saucepan. (This will make the finished dish creamier.) Cover the saucepan again and let the mixture simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
5. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the beans sit for 5 minutes (with the lid still on the saucepan).
6. Stir in the liquid smoke (if using), then fold in the warm rice. Taste and add additional salt as needed. Serve topped with chunks of avocado and garnished with fresh cilantro leaves. Add some hot sauce (Crystal is a southern classic!) if you want a bit more heat!