Vegan for Omnivores

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Veganism, the practice of avoiding the consumption of all animal products, is on the rise. Sources indicate that anywhere between 2 to 4 percent of the U.S. population is vegan, and the practice is becoming more mainstream.

Omnivores may applaud, disapprove or ignore the trend, but for those of us who know, love and host vegans, it is useful to have a few dishes in our repertoire that can accommodate them without causing the rest of the diners to feel deprived.

The next few posts will offer a selection of vegan dishes for non-vegans. I can feel the snickers already, especially from the carnivores — “I’m not eating bird seed for dinner” and “Where’s the beef?” — but these recipes offer a hearty, healthy, flavorful way to avoid cooking multiple meals for one sitting.

Full disclosure: I initially made this version of rice and beans as a side dish to pair with braised Mexican chicken, but it made a huge amount, and was so good that the leftovers wound up as a main dish topped with chopped fresh cilantro and sliced avocados the following night.

When combined, rice and beans form a complete protein, so there is added nutritional benefit to this dish. The use of brown rice brings whole grain and a bit more fiber.

Because the dish is so well flavored, and the beans’ cooking liquid covers the rice and disguises the color, even the pickiest of eaters won’t notice. My son, who eschews whole grain as if it were poison, gobbled this up two days in a row.

Vegan Rice and Beans

Serves 8 generously

1 pound pinto beans

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons cumin powder

2 teaspoons chili powder of choice: ancho, chipotle, cayenne (or a combination)

1 lime

2 teaspoons adobo sauce; with or without chipotles depending on whether extra spice is desired (this is a canned preparation called “chipotles in adobo.” I use La Morena brand and add 2 whole chipotles to the pot.)

1½ cups brown rice

Sliced avocados and chopped fresh cilantro for serving

Soak the beans; rinse and place them in a large pot covered with water. Bring them to a boil, and set them aside for one hour. Drain and rinse.

While the beans soak, heat the oil in a large pot with the onion, garlic, salt, cumin and chili powders. Sauté until the onion is softened and the spices are fragrant.

Add the adobo sauce and whole chipotle if using, and add the beans to the pot. Cover with water by 3 inches. Squeeze the lime juice into the pot and throw in the lime halves.

Bring the mixture to a boil, cover and lower to simmer for at least 2 hours until the beans are soft. Add water if the cooking liquid reduces too much; there should be at least 2 inches of liquid over the beans at all times.

While the beans simmer, cook the rice according to the package directions.

When the beans are done, fold the rice into the beans, stirring to coat and blend with the liquid. Taste for seasoning and add salt or chili powder as needed.

Garnish generously with cilantro, and serve with sliced avocados.