Red Beans and Cauliflower Ricethe washington postSun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.
Red Beans and Cauliflower Rice the washington post

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

In his 1993 book "Fork in the Road," chef Paul Prudhomme writes that red beans and rice was traditional in old New Orleans on Mondays for one simple reason: "Monday used to be wash day, and the story goes that the beans could simmer while the laundry was being done. When the wash was finished, so were the beans."

Well, laundry doesn't take nearly as long as it used to, and red beans and rice doesn't have to, either. Traditionally, the beans cook for many hours, so long that the line between beans and sauce dissolves into nothingness, and that's certainly a big part of their appeal.

I've been speeding them up for years, mainly by starting with something I almost always have in the fridge or freezer: already-cooked beans, stored in their liquid. These don't end up quite as creamy-rich as the day-long version, but they're packed with flavor.

That's one tradition busted. Another one: I use Spanish smoked paprika to fill the role that andouille and/or other smoky meats used to play. And then recently I came up with the biggest twist of all, employing cauliflower in place of the rice.

It's a lighter take on one of my favorite Southern dishes, but if you don't want to go quite this light, you can always dial back one of my twists and serve the beans over good, old-fashioned white rice instead. I'm sure Prudhomme would approve.


Red Beans and Cauliflower Rice

Makes 4 to 6 servings


For the beans

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon powdered mustard

1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika (pimenton)

1 poblano chili pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped

1 rib celery, finely chopped

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

4 cups cooked red kidney beans (homemade or canned no-salt-added), drained and rinsed

4 cups bean-cooking liquid (may substitute water or no-salt-added vegetable broth)

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed

Freshly ground black pepper

For the cauliflower rice

1 medium head cauliflower, cored and cut into small pieces

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric (optional)

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

For the beans: Pour the oil into a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the oregano, mustard, cayenne and smoked paprika; let them sizzle and bloom for 30 seconds.

Add the poblano, celery, onion and garlic; cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add the beans, cooking liquid, the 1/2 teaspoon salt and a generous grinding of pepper. Increase the heat to bring to a boil, then reduce the heat until the liquid is barely bubbling; cook, uncovered, until the flavors meld and the liquid has slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Taste, and add salt if needed. Remove from the heat; cover to keep warm.

For the cauliflower rice: While the beans are cooking, add the cauliflower pieces to a food processor and pulse until they are reduced to the size of rice. Pour the oil into a large saucepan over medium heat. Once it shimmers, add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 8 minutes. Stir in the turmeric, if using, salt and the cauliflower; reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook until the cauliflower is barely tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

To serve, divide the cauliflower rice among shallow bowls and top with the beans and some of their liquid. Serve hot.

Nutrition per serving (based on 6): 230 calories, 13 g protein, 36 g carbohydrates, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 570 mg sodium, 12 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar.