An Exploration into Cajun Cuisine with a Vegetarian Attempt on the very Popular Dish, Jambalaya!
Jambalaya was the first dish that came to mind for a topping to my spaghetti squash as I’m planning to visit New Orleans. This type of cooking was a definitely a first for me. Luckily, I recently received as a birthday gift, The Flavor Bible, and found some very helpful information! This type of cooking originated from the French colonists that settled into Canada, and later Louisiana. Cajun cuisine consists heavily on spices such as cayenne, paprika, and thyme. The spice blend is beautifully paired with a vegetable base (or mirepoix in French) including onions, peppers, and celery.
Jambalaya can be Vegetarian?
Turns out there are many varieties in Cajun cooking! In this Louisiana favorite, I substituted black beans and vegetarian sausage for the more common sausage and chicken. This dish can be just as delicious with your favorite meat or seafood of choice.
Instead of rice, I used roasted spaghetti squash as it added in more beneficial nutrients. Hunger-squashing dietary fiber and skin-boosting Vitamin A are two nutrients highly packed in this gorgeous vegetable. Prior to roasting, scoop out the seeds and pulp; it’s a messy and oh so fun project!
For the seasoning, I played around with my own combination of paprika, thyme, and cayenne pepper. This blend is easily adjustable based on your preferences for spice and flavor. Like most of my recipes, I use very little, if any, salt. These spices add more flavor without the sodium! If you don’t have the spices in your kitchen, feel free to try a low salt or salt-free cajun seasoning blend, such as Frontier spices.
Benefits of Plant-based Meals
Many have heard of Meatless Mondays. Well, this campaign is on to something. Not only does vegetarian, plant-based cooking benefit our health, it also helps our environment by lessening our carbon footprint and using less water for food production. While we reduce the environmental costs of our nation and prevent chronic health diseases by reducing our meat consumption, you may notice your wallet a little fuller, too. Meat and seafood are both known to be more expensive than vegetables and grains, and who doesn’t enjoy saving money?
After eating this dish, my husband and I are very excited for our weekend in New Orleans. Of course, this is not the authentic cajun favorite, but it was fun to make and I really loved the exploration of these spices. I hope you enjoy cooking with the spaghetti squash and taking in the flavors of Louisiana!
- 2 cups vegetarian sausage, sliced*
- 1 large spaghetti squash, halved and seeds removed
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 medium bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 cup (2 celery sticks), diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 15oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf, dried
- 1 15oz can low sodium black beans
- 1/2 cup parsley, chopped (optional)
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly drizzle olive oil and sprinkle pepper on squash halves. Place in oven for 45 minutes or until thoroughly roasted through.
- While squash cooks, saute 1 tablespoon olive oil on medium high heat and cook the sausage, 5-7 minutes or until browning occurs. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In the same pan, now add the onion and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes or until onions become translucent.
- Add the spices and celery cook for 1-2 minutes or until aromatic.
- Add the tomatoes and bay leaf. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- In the final 5 min of simmering, add in the sausage and black beans to simmer. Set aside.
- Once squash is ready, let cool to touch, then scrape out the "spaghetti".
- Prior to serving the jambalaya, remove the bay leaf. Top over the squash.
- The dish can be served in the squash shell or alone on a plate. Enjoy!
- * Can substitute meat or seafood for the veggie sausage.