Red beans and rice are traditional New Orleans fare, the (very inexpensive) dish that Louis Armstrong relished at Buster Holmes' famous dive in the French quarter, according to John and Ann Egerton's Southern Food: At Home, On the Road, In History (1993).
The Original Beans and Rice
The popular New Orleans dish was originally made with small red beans, which are native to the Americas and Caribbean. The USDA's Nutrient Data laboratory (2010) reports that red beans have the highest anti-oxidant capacity of any beans. The dish is sometimes also made with red kidney beans, also flavorful, but a bit larger than red beans, and having more toxins (thus requiring longer soaking perhaps) particularly for people with stomach sensitivities.
The original rice used came from Africa. "Parboiled" rice is used in this recipe. When parboiled rice is made, the nutrients in the rice hull are driven into the grain. It thus has almost all the nutrients that brown rice has, is a bit more tender, and cooks faster.
A Vegetarian Makeover
Traditional red beans and rice called for bacon, ham hock, or salt pork, but this vegetarian version relies on the wonderful flavors of grapeseed and olive oil. Buster Holmes's New Orleans restaurant, where I ate red beans and rice occasionally as a teenager many years ago in the 70s, marinated one of his versions of red beans overnight in wine and seasonings. Unlike vinegar, wine boils out of the broth more rapidly than water as it cooks. Wine is not quite so acidic as vinegar either, and thus is less likely to keep beans from cooking. Other cooks cook red beans with a little beer. My simplified recipe, with a shorter soak time than Buster's, cooks the beans in plain old water with of course the grapeseed oil, but you can add a few tablespoons of of beer or wine, if you have some, to the cooking liquid. The onions and celery at least are marinated and sauteed in wine vinegar (a bit cheaper than red wine!), and these are added to the beans once they are tender.
Since New Orleans has a French tradition, the best way to flavor red beans, in the absence of salt pork, may be with a bit of French herbs (bay leaves, and herbes de Provence, which is a mixture of savory, thyme, basil, rosemary, and lavender), plus some fresh Italian parsley or cilantro (the latter grows wild where I live, albeit in cooler weather) and a bit of cumin.
Cooking Time, Pressure Cooking
Good news for pressure cooker fans: both the beans and the rice can be prepared in a pressure cooker! If you only have one cooker, cook the beans first: they take about ten or at most fifteen minutes; combine them in a regular pot with the mariinated onions and celery while you then cook the rice separately. If not cooked in a pressure cooker, the beans cook in about an hour, the rice in twenty to twenty-five minutes. Of course, the beans must be soaked three hours first in either case.
This serves about three or four (as a vegetrian main dish), perhaps with a good crusty loaf of French bread or some skillet cornbread, or four or five as a side dish. The beans are nicely spiced as they simmer with the peppers, but you can pour on hot sauce too if you want.