Red beans and rice, with cauliflower as stand-in



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 as long as it used to. 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 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 not a paleo-diet move; I’m as much of a carb hound as anyone. But with a head of cauliflower on hand that wasn’t getting any fresher, I had to give it a try, especially because I’ve long complained about vegetarian dishes that don’t seem to include many vegetables.

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’

4 to 6 servings

From Joe Yonan, author of “Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook” (Ten Speed Press, 2013).

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

Pour a tablespoon of oil into a large saucepan over medium heat. Once it shimmers, stir in the oregano, mustard, cayenne and paprika; let them sizzle for 30 seconds. Add the poblano, celery, 1 small onion and 2 cloves of 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 heat until the liquid is barely bubbling; cook, uncovered, until the liquid has slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat; cover to keep warm.

While the beans are cooking, add the cauliflower to a food processor and pulse until reduced to the size of rice. Pour the remaining tablespoon of oil into a large saucepan over medium heat. Once it shimmers, add the remaining 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.

Divide the cauliflower “rice” among bowls and top with beans and some of their liquid. Serve hot.

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