It is currently over 90ºF outside and humid. It is disgusting. July slowly creeped by. And I mean slowly. And now that it’s August, I anxiously await that first stretch of days where the humidity breaks and the temperature is in the low 80s (preferably the 70s) and I can tell myself that Autumn is nigh. Yes, it will still be August and the humidity and heat will continue on and on for weeks, but just knowing that it’s coming is enough for me. Getting that reminder of what truly nice weather feels like awakens my soul and my creativity.
I long for the days of selecting from my large collection of Autumnal music and going for day long walks outside in the sun and cool, crisp air with a hot coffee beverage of sorts in hand. I do not want the days of walking outside in barely any clothing and immediately sweating the very moment you step outside, trying to avoid the sun and drinking only cold drinks to last any longer than it already has. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed this yearning has started earlier and earlier. I get disenchanted with music in the summer. I count down the days until I get that “Fall Feeling.” Each year, it seems to come a little bit earlier. Which is both good and bad. It’s bad because I just makes me mad that it ISN’T fall yet. Good because it gets me thinking about Autumn.
Early in July, I gave up on Summer and started planning my Autumn dessert menu. I was done with Summer. I still am. I almost always am. I dread the start of Summer. How most people feel about Winter is how I feel about Summer. Call me crazy. Call me weird. Call me whatever you want. But I won’t budge on this. I would much rather be cool and comfortable and have to put on an extra layer rather than taking off all of my clothes and still be hot and uncomfortable. The rattle of a window air conditioner polluting the air and having to turn the tv up to an obscene volume just to hear it. I could go on and describe the unpleasantries, but that’s not what this is about. Maybe I should start a Tumblr on why summer sucks…or a BuzzFeed list…
Ok, fine, I will begrudgingly admit that there are parts of Summer I do enjoy, but when you don’t have your own yard or porch or pool or deck in the middle of a city, it’s harder to enjoy. And what’s so bad about Fall? It’s cooler. It smells crisp. The leaves turn brilliant colors. You can have apple cider, hot or cold. Pumpkin pie. Hot lattes. Bake some bread. Wear a sweater. Braise short ribs. Drink red wine that isn’t sangria! THE FALL IS AMAZING!! It leads right into the holidays, the time of year when everything is sparkly and people forget their differences and try to come together (well, maybe not this November).
So rather than continue with my usual Summer boring suppers of salads and quickly cooked pastas, I decided that on my last day off, after spending a few hours brainstorming dessert ideas, I would just go ahead and get to cooking. I would cook a dinner that was comforting. That would take some time. Because I could. Because I wanted to. And because I wanted to tell Summer to just eff off already!
Red Beans & Rice is one of those old school, very traditional, very comforting foods from down South. Traditionally done on laundry day, the beans would simmer all day and create a thick sauce, served with rice and you’ve got a nutrient and flavorful dish. It’s easy. It’s very hands off. In all honesty, I don’t know if you can call my version exactly traditional. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten red beans and rice in my many travels to the south. And as much as I would love to use dried red beans, I usually don’t, because that requires some planning. More often than not, I wake up in the morning thinking about breakfast and whilst eating breakfast the question of what will dinner be is the only thought going through my head. When the thought of red beans and rice comes up, it’s too late to do the dried beans. Although, technically, there are ways to use dried beans the same day. But it requires boiling and letting them sit and waiting and draining and more boiling and while it’s all relatively easy and hands free, it’s far simpler to just open up a can. I will also be honest, I don’t know that I’ve ever really noticed the difference. Maybe it’s because they’re doctored up with spices and meat or that I don’t eat them often enough to notice the subtle differences. So really, it’s up to you. I won’t judge either way because this recipe isn’t authentic. It’s just damn tasty. And that’s really all I care about.
You could serve this as just a bowl of beans, maybe drizzle some really good olive oil on top (the expensive kind you never cook) and have some crusty bread on the side. That would be a filling meal in itself. However, it’s nice to break up the stew with rice. Simple, plain white rice. It cuts through any saltiness and heat and gives you a bit more body. I’ve read many things on rice, to cook it like pasta, to rinse it first…all of that is just fine and dandy. My one thing for rice is this: butter. Butter makes all the difference. I have used oil, I’ve used coconut milk, I have used water, I have used stock, I have thrown in herbs, but the one thing that makes white rice incredibly delicious and moist, is butter. It doesn’t slick up the rice and make it greasy. The rice absorbs all that butter, all that flavor and you’re left with creamy rice. Rice that says plump and moist even in the fridge. Yeah, maybe it’s not all that healthy for you, but it’s damn tasty. And a little goes a long way.