The biggest perk of army life for me right now is that I’m swimming around in more free time than I’ve arguably ever had. Without a city job and commute, my uncluttered schedule means I’ve got almost 100% more time to devote to the love of my life: quinoa.
(Jonathan’s okay too.)
One of my goals for my time in Fort Campbell is to convince quinoa to taste good enough for a seasoned carnivore to stomach on a semi-regular basis. With the help of a rice cooker, my new-found free time, and usually Pinterest, I’m feeling more confident about this goal than I am about any of the others. (Such as the “find my way around post” goal, unless the final test is to drive to the Class Six without getting lost, which I can totally already do, because that’s where liquor is sold.)
So in another attempt to “meat” in the middle, I’ve completely bastardized a meaty Louisiana dish, and turned it into something my New Orleans friends might draw and quarter me for:
It’s okay. I have to suffer for my art.
The only way this recipe is actually like true red beans and rice is that it contains red beans and a few of the same vegetables. I figured since I was already destroying the sanctity of the culinary arts, I may as well make my version a bit healthier too. I’m the worst kind of person.
When it comes to cooking in Fort Campbell, I lean towards recipes with smaller ingredient lists; if I can’t fit all the components on my tiny cafe kitchen table, I’d have to make multiple trips to the cabinets. Which sounds awful. And would make it difficult for me to also do laundry while I’m cooking. I’m clearly not used to the free time yet.
The nice thing about cooking quinoa is that, even in a rice cooker, the process takes enough hands-free time for you to transfer your wet clothes to the dryer and fully arrange your delicates on a drying rack before you need to do anything else. If you’re not familiar with cooking quinoa, but you are familiar with cooking rice, then good news! It’s done the same way. If you don’t already know how to cook rice but you do know how to do a Google search for “how to cook rice,” then I think you get where I’m going with this.
If you’re a normal person who did not decide to also do your laundry while you’re cooking, then you can go ahead and use the quinoa-cooking down time to dice and sauté all your vegetables. But you won’t have clean socks when you’re done, so there’s that.
The true meating in the middle part of this recipe is that I substitute the traditional red meat in red beans and rice for turkey sausage. Quinoa is already loaded with protein, so you don’t need to feel bad about any dent in your amino acids. I know that’s something you generally feel bad about. I’m here for you.
Once the quinoa has absorbed all the liquid it was prepared in, fluff the finished product with a fork. No need to also fluff your laundry; that’s what fabric softener is for.
All-in-all, this dish is relatively simple to make, and the cup-and-a-half of quinoa I recommend in my recipe makes a shit ton of food. And nothing’s more American than a shit ton of food. (Another quinoa tip for those of you whose schedules are not blissfully free: you can make a big batch of the grain and freeze it for future use. I like to mix a leftover cooked serving of plain quinoa with rosemary, a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and add a bit into a salad.)
I served my red beans and rice pretender with a small spinach salad. Then I was still hungry, so I went for more quinoa. Then I was too full, and I wished I could Goldilocks my way out of my dinner.
And here’s the goods.
Quinoa Red Beans and “Rice”
Yields ~4-5 servings
- 8 small turkey sausage links
- 1 1/2 cups quinoa
- 2-3 cups water or broth (either chicken or vegetable)
- 1 (16 oz.) can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
- 3 green onions, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1/2 tbsp Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/4 tsp crushed cayenne pepper
- salt (optional)
- Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh strainer, then cook either in water + seasoned salt, or in chicken or vegetable broth. If cooking on the stove, place quinoa and 3 cups water + seasoned salt or broth in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to medium-low heat, cover, and let simmer until all the liquid is absorbed (usually about 15 minutes). If using a rice cooker, use between 2 and 2 1/2 cups of water + seasoned salt or broth for this recipe (it will vary based on your rice cooker and your altitude). When all the water is absorbed, remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a large saucepan that has a lid. Dice onions, celery, and green pepper and mince garlic, then add to pan. Sauté on medium-low heat until onions are translucent (about five minutes).
- Meanwhile, chop turkey sausage into bite-size pieces. Add to pan and increase heat to medium-high. Cook until sausage is browned.
- Reduce to low heat, and add quinoa to pan. Rinse and drain kidney beans and add to pan. Stir in pepper, crushed cayenne pepper, and more seasoned salt or salt to taste.
- Cover and let simmer for ~10 minutes.