True Blood Season 4 premieres tonight! I can't tell you how excited I am about this. It has been approximately 17 years since the last season ended... really, the wait has seemed endless. I can't wait to hear Bill say "Sookie" again in his husky, breathless voice; or see Eric, well, being Eric; or see Lafayette do absolutely anything at all, because he is the greatest character on TV, ever.
As excited as I am about the return of True Blood, I get almost as excited about making some Southern/Cajun food to eat while we watch, just so I feel like I'm down in Louisiana with all the vamps (and werewolves, and fairies, and witches). You can check out my past recipes for Louisiana-style Barbecue "Shrimp" & Cheese Grits; Smoky Red Peppers 'n' Beans Gumbo (from Veganomicon); or my also-inspired by True Blood Vegan Chicken & Spicy Sausage Étouffée. Tonight I opted for Red Beans & Rice with Red-Wine Simmered Seitan from Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen, which is one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, and for dessert, some red velvet cupcakes - or Crimson Velveteen Cupcakes, as they are called in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. Both of these recipes appealed to my Southern side, and had the added bonus of keeping with the red theme in honor of True Blood.
The red beans & rice recipe was a very pleasant surprise. I actually had in mind a more traditional red beans & rice recipe, which usually ends up looking something like this, kind of thick and stewy and all cooked down together. Bryant Terry's version is more modern and refined, and has the very untraditional addition of seitan cooked in red wine with garlic and herbs. Oh if only there were restaurants in New Orleans selling this kind of food! The flavors were absolutely delicious, a medley of garlic, shallots, green pepper, and plenty of fresh thyme. The only thing I changed from his recipe is that I made white basmati instead of brown rice - I know brown rice is healthier, but sometimes I just prefer white - and instead of mixing the rice into the bean/seitan/vegetable mixture, I left it separate and served the bean mixture on top. Absolutely delicious. If you don't already have his cookbook, I highly recommend you order it.
Red velvet cake is such a quintessential Southern dessert, its red hue in part originally attributed to the reaction of acidic vinegar and buttermilk, which would reveal the red anthocyanin in the cocoa, according to Wikipedia. Regardless, pretty much every recipe I've ever seen calls for a crapload of red food coloring, which has always kind of scared me away from red velvet cakes in the past. Now you can find natural food colorings, but they certainly don't come cheap. I found this India Tree natural food coloring set at Whole Foods for about $20, which is kind of crazy if you ask me. It's cheaper if you order it online, but still not what I would call "cheap."