Jambalaya is a dish that starts with the New Orleans trinity of diced and sautéed onions, celery and green or red bell peppers. Traditionally, it has savory meats and rice too; some cooks add seafood. Wikipedia says that jambalaya was first made in Louisiana by homesick Spanish conquistadors, who missed paella. The French added a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. Folks from the Caribbean sprinkled in their spices. Today, in modern Louisiana, Creole jambalaya, includes tomatoes, and Cajun jambalaya does not.
Because I like food that not only tastes great but also looks great, I wondered if I could change one of the main ingredients, rice, and substitute beans so that the dish wouldn’t look “muddy.” Was this a sacrilege? I made it with rice, with beans instead, and then with rice and beans together. All variations were easy and delish. I chose a Cajun jambalaya and plated with fresh tomato slices on the side and a sprig of watercress as garnish. If you want a Creole jambalaya, add 2 C chopped tomatoes and reduce the 4 C of water to 3.
|¼ C extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)||1 tsp black pepper|
|2 largish yellow onions, chopped, about 4 C||1 tsp Celtic or Himalayan salt|
|4 cloves garlic, minced||2 C uncooked brown rice, long grain is typical|
|2 C diced celery||4 C water|
|2 C green or red bell peppers, diced||¼ C minced parsley|
|6-8 oz C smoky tempeh, or real bacon, diced||2 lbs shrimp, scallops, tofu, sausage, or cooked chicken|
|2 tsp thyme||15 oz (about 2 C cooked) black beans|
|½ tsp cayenne pepper (more if you like heat)|
Gently warm EVOO in a large skillet. Sauté onions, garlic, celery and pepper together with smoky tempeh (also known as “fakin’ bacon”) or real bacon until onions are soft, about 5 minutes.
Add thyme, cayenne, black pepper and salt to skillet with rice and water. Bring jambalaya to a boil. Lower heat, cover skillet and simmer until rice is tender and water absorbed (long grain brown rice takes about 40 minutes, Jade Pearl Green takes about 20…). Stir in parsley and fold in protein of choice together with the black beans (yes, I’ve given you the version with rice and beans together). Cover and cook 3-5 minutes.
Taste, adjust seasoning. I know you’re dying to ask whether you need another protein such as seafood, chicken or tofu since rice and beans together give us complete protein. The answer is no, you don’t, but the dish is really, really satisfying and filling with rice, beans, veggies and another protein source.