Wednesday, May 6, 2009

BBQ beans and rice

If you haven't checked out Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen yet, I highly recommend you do so soon. Terry is a really interesting and thoughtful cook who goes back to an older notion of southern cooking, more focused on vegetables and fresh ingredients, but with plenty of modern and playful twists. Go read his "Reclaiming True Grits" essay to get an idea of his philosophy.

I love the idea of Vegan Soul Kitchen for a couple of reasons. First, it shows that you can in fact make banging soul food that is also healthy and fresh. But I also like it because, though I am by no stretch of the imagination vegan, learning how to prepare delicious vegan meals makes you a better cook. When you can't rely on bacon or cream to cover up for an otherwise bland dish, you learn how to better construct a dish to make it flavorful. And moving on from there, you get a better sense of how you should use animal products on a day to day basis: judiciously, not just because.

I only got this book recently, and until yesterday had only made his coleslaw, which uses silken tofu instead of mayo to create a slaw that is more delicate and subtle - but also far more delicious - than most slaws I've had. None of that gopy heavy stuff... Yesterday I came home and decided to try something else out of the book, but of course I had no interest in going shopping, so a few substitutions were made.

Given the ingredients I had at home, I decided to make a dish called Boppin' John, essentially bbq beans served over rice. It was supposed to be made with black-eyed peas, but I'd recently used up what we had at home, so I used white beans instead. It was also supposed to have tempeh in it, another thing I was out of, and the only other soy product I had was tofu. While I don't think the bean switch was detrimental to the dish, I will go ahead and say it would be better to use tempeh, or to fry the crumbled tofu first to make crispy little tofu pieces, as the crumbled tofu I simply added in was texturally lacking. I also halved the amount of agave nectar (Terry's preferred sweetener), and I am glad I made that choice. Feel free to add more sweetener if that's how you like it.

BBQ beans and rice (Boppin' John)
Adapted from Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen

- Cook 1 1/2 cup beans in ampl
e salted water until just tender. Drain and reserve 1 cup of the liquid.

-Meanwhile, cook up a medium onion in some olive oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes, then add 3-4 (or more) minced cloves of garlic. Cook another couple minutes.

-Preheat oven to 350 F.

-In a blender, combine 2 tbsp. vinegar (sherry or red wine or cider), 1/2 cup tamari, 1 cup of canned tomatoes, 1 chipotle pepper, 1/4 cup agave nectar, 1 tbsp cumin, some thyme, the reserved bean liquid, and a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Blend until smooth.

-In an ovenproof dish, combine the beans, 1/2 pound crumbled tempeh (or fried crumbled tofu), the onions and garlic, and the sauce from the blender.

-Bake for about 1 1/2 hours.

-Serve over rice (or, in my case, rice tinted yellow with turmeric because it looks cool). This would also be delicious served over polenta or grits.