Mardi Gras Red Beans

I made these  beans for our Mardi Gras potluck at work using Andouille (Ahn-DUE-we)  sausages, which add a spicy Cajun flavor. It’s traditionally a smoked pork sausage, brought to Louisiana by Acadian settlers. I didn’t want to eat too much pork, so bought two kinds: Niman Ranch Pork and Smoked Chicken from Open Nature (by Lucerne foods -Safeway). I liked the chicken links the best; they were spicy and not as greasy as the pork, and they were cheaper too. Trader Joe’s chicken Andouille is even better and spicier.

Fresh produce and herbs are best, but with winter prices so high for the fresh, I substituted frozen bell peppers and basil from Trader Joe’s. If using fresh basil, add it at the end of cooking.  My thyme and oregano plants are sending out new leaves, so I used them fresh.

2 Tb olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

4 minced garlic cloves

4 medium stalks celery, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped, seeds, stem and membrane removed (or substitute 1 cup frozen)

2 jalapeño peppers, remove seeds, stem and membrane and finely dice

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, minced

3 T fresh Italian parsley

1 Tb fresh basil, julienned, or  1 cube frozen basil

1 Tb fresh oregano, diced

6 Andouille sausages, quartered lengthwise, then sliced crosswise

2 bay leaves

½  tsp red pepper flakes

10 cups water or chicken broth

4 cups dried red kidney beans

¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper

salt to taste after beans are cooked

Bring water or chicken broth to a boil. If using water, use a teakettle (I had to fill the teakettle twice). Heat oil in a large heavy pot. Sauté onions, jalapeño, celery and bell pepper until soft, then add sausages and seasonings and sauté on medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring often. Add the hot water or chicken broth. Rinse beans well, removing broken beans and any stones, and add to water or chicken broth. Let boil for 15 minutes, stirring well to loosen any ingredients from the bottom. Pour into crock pot and let it cook all day or night, depending on whether you start it in the morning or in the evening.

When beans are tender, add 2 to 3 tsp salt to taste. Cook at least ½ hour more to let the beans and broth absorb the salt. Stir in fresh basil and parsley.

Serve over rice and with a piece of cornbread.

Nutritional Info
  • Servings Per Recipe: 20
  • Amount Per Serving
  • Calories: 97.6
  • Total Fat: 4.4 g
  • Cholesterol: 8.6 mg
  • Sodium: 677.1 mg
  • Total Carbs: 10.1 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 3.7 g
  • Protein: 4.8 g

Keen on Quinoa

Quinoa (KEEN-wha) is actually not a grain, but a tiny seed with a nutty flavor that is  loaded with protein and minerals and is a great source of fiber. The name comes from the Quechua word kinwa and has been enjoyed by the Andean people for 4000 years. It comes in white, black and red varieties and cooks like rice.

This savory recipe comes from a Frenchman named Georges Bejue who offered it to me cooked with lots of bay leaves and garlic and a few spoonfuls of olive oil. It is great eaten alone, and even better topped with roasted or stir fried vegetables, Salmon, chicken, or beans.

1 ½ cup quinoa

3 cups water

2 Tb olive oil

3 cloves garlic, chopped

6 bay leaves

salt to taste

several grinds black pepper

Rinse quinoa, then combine with other ingredients and cook in rice cooker until done. Adjust salt and pepper.

Georges recommends cooking with Himalayan pink mineral salt, which contains a wide array of 84 health-giving minerals and trace elements including calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper and iron. It’s also quite pretty.

Red quinoa served with roasted red bell peppers and baby eggplant, sliced and stir- fried in olive oil with garlic, shallot, sliced oyster mushrooms, and fresh spinach,. Sprinkle a bit of white wine, salt and pepper and stir in.

Eggplant Marinara


Rich with eggplant, mushrooms and fresh tomatoes, spicy with Italian sausage,  garlic and pepper, and fragrant with fresh herbs, this marinara sauce is ideal for pasta or Lasagna. There are two ways to make this marinara: with eggplant purée or sliced Italian eggplant. You could even use both for an extra helping of vegetables. I roasted the mushrooms to bring out their earthy flavor.

I took a tip from The Breakaway Cook Eric Gower, and added ground dried mushrooms for umami, (Japanese for savory deliciousness), which wonderfully expands and rounds out flavors.

Along with my homegrown herbs, I add a fresh bay leaf. I pick them when I get the chance to hike in the hills around Berkeley and Palo Alto. Their aroma brings me memories of my youth hiking and biking those hills. Just be careful about leaving them in too long – the fresh ones are very strong and can overpower the sauce, making it bitter. Just leave it in about 15 minutes.

Serves 8 (with pasta)

3 links turkey Italian sausage or vegetarian sausage

1 Tb olive oil

1 onion, chopped fine

1 Tb  salt (to taste)

½ tsp. red chili flakes

5 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

3 Tb minced fresh oregano OR  3 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary

1 tsp. minced fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp. minced fresh tarragon or 1/2 tsp dried tarragon

several grinds black pepper

2 bell peppers and/or red bell peppers. (can substitute 3 cups frozen or 2 cups jarred roasted red peppers)

1 small (6 oz) can tomato paste

¼ cup red wine

2 lbs or 14 large soft Roma tomatoes (substitute 24 oz can of crushed tomatoes and 24 oz diced tomatoes

1 Tb sugar to taste

1 bay leaf

3 dried mushrooms

1 roasted globe eggplant  and/or  4 Italian eggplants, cut in rounds and quartered

1 cup quartered mushrooms

1  14-oz can artichoke hearts, quartered

I bunch (1/4 cup minced) fresh basil

Italian eggplant method: Roast or barbecue eggplant and peppers. Discarding ends, slice eggplant into rounds, then quarter the rounds.

Globe Eggplant Method: Pierce globe eggplant with a fork, and roast in a heavy oiled baking pan in 400’ oven for 1 hour until it collapses.  Roast red peppers and mushrooms for the last ½ hour alongside the eggplant. You can roast the vegetables a day ahead of time.

You can also barbecue the eggplant peppers and mushrooms.

While eggplant is roasting and cooling, make the rest of the sauce.

Slice, quarter and brown sausages and drain the fat.

Sauté onion and salt in olive oil until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes Add sausage, chopped fresh or frozen bell peppers (if not roasting them), chili flakes, garlic, oregano, rosemary, thyme and black pepper. Sauté another couple of minutes until herbs release their fragrance.

Add tomato paste, then fill tomato paste can with water then stir in the tomato paste that has stuck to the can.

Halve Roma tomatoes and scoop out seeds and fibrous ribs.

Pulse tomatoes in food processor until desired consistency is reached. I did mine on the chunky side. (If you are using canned tomatoes, add them instead.) Stir into tomato paste and herb mixture. Add sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes.

If using chopped Italian eggplant, add it to sauce.

If using globe eggplant, scrape it out from the peel and mince it. Stir it into the sauce.

Quarter mushrooms and mix in sauce.

Grind the dried mushrooms until pulverized in a clean coffee grinder or spice grinder. Stir into sauce.

Add 1/4 cup wine and sip some on the side…

If using roasted bell peppers, stir them into the sauce.

Stir well and let simmer for an hour. You can make this in a crock pot and let it simmer for several hours.

Add quartered artichoke hearts and tarragon for last 10 minutes of cooking. Just before serving over pasta or making lasagna, stir in basil and cook a couple of minutes.