Monday, December 6, 2010

Adzuki Beans and Roasted Vegetables with Brown Rice

I have been inexplicably excited to write about this dish for days now. I’m beginning to take for granted how often I eat incredibly delicious, nourishing food. So when I make something that compels me to audibly proclaim how good this food is, I appreciate anew the bliss of eating this well.

This dish was inspired by a recipe from Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet, but I completely revamped it the second time I made it. The original dish is an adzuki bean stew with kabocha squash, seasoned only with a touch of soy sauce and some parsley. When I first prepared this recipe, I liked it, but only because it made me feel virtuous for eating something so healthy, even if it didn’t taste amazing. Adzuki bean stew is a very traditional macrobiotic dish focusing on whole foods without a lot of seasoning.   As Alicia describes it, in the macrobiotic diet, “Herbs and spices are used in moderation: Spices like cayenne and curries are powerful and have a strong effect on the body. If we want our bodies to come to a centered, relaxed place, it’s important to use simple food - at least for a while. Many [macrobiotics] use herbs and spices here and there to create variety, but don’t get into a habit of putting them in every dish. To the [macrobiotic] tongue, simple food tastes fantastic.” I was skeptical when I read this, never having heard of any reputable study denigrating flavorful food; I was most definitely not converted after eating this dish.

Now for the good part. I rehabilitated this dish using good old fashioned aromatic flavorings, like onions and garlic, and a touch of salt and pepper. It was spectacular. Roasting the onion, carrot, garlic, and squash created a mellow warm flavor, beautifully grounded by the adzuki beans, and a fantastic brown rice medley. My first memory of this dish was one of uniform texture, and not a lot of flavor. But, now I remember it as warm, homey, and full of sweet, savory, and fresh goodness.

This dish also happens to be incredibly good for you. I don’t have to expound on the merits of whole grains any more to you readers, but adzuki beans are new to this blog. Ounce for ounce, adzuki beans are one of the best foods you can put in your mouth. Like all beans, they are a great source of fiber, low in fat, and chock full of nutrients. Adzuki beans are a prominent part of many Eastern diets and contain high quantities of magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc copper, manganese, and B vitamins. So, the next time your feeling culinarily adventurous, or just hungry, think of this dish!

1/2 cup dried adzuki beans
1 bay leaf
1 onion halved and sliced thinly
1 carrot halved and chopped roughly
2 cloves garlic peeled
1 acorn squash halved and sliced into 3/4” wide wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup brown rice*
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons cilantro chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Place dried beans in a shallow dish. Cover with water 1” or 2” above the beans. Let sit overnight.

Place beans  and the bay leaf in a small pot, and just cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until beans are tender. Remove bay leaf and set aside.

Heat oven to 375º. Place onions, carrot, garlic, and squash in a shallow dish. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until tender. Remove the squash from the peel, and cut into medium chunks. Add the squash, carrots, onions, and garlic to the beans.

Bring vegetable stock to a boil in a medium pot. Add the rice and simmer for 35 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Combine the rice, beans, and vegetables. Add the cilantro, and taste for salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

* I used Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Medley, with long grain brown rice, black barley, and daikon radish seeds. Yum!

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