Meatless Monday: Veggie Gumbo

 

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How are your meatless Mondays going? If you’re having a little difficulty coming up with something novel and delicious every week, you might want to try rethinking some of your favourite meat-centric recipes and opting for a meatless version. The more you try this simple strategy the more you will discover that many of these go-to classics are just fine, thank-you, without the flesh and blood. Take gumbo, for example, the iconic dish of Louisiana.

It’s worth bearing in mind that a region’s cuisine develops from what is available locally, and in some respects gumbo can be considered an apt metaphor for the region; Louisiana, located on the Gulf of Mexico, is a melting pot of various nations that make the Creole culture; French, African, Acadian/Cajun, Haitian, Native American, Spanish and Mexican. So it makes sense that Creole cuisine is also a melting pot of various traditions, flavours and ingredients. Even the name “gumbo” reflects the multi-cultural influence:

 Scholars and chefs have offered various explanations for the etymology of the word “gumbo”. The dish was likely named after one of its two main ingredients, okra or filé. In the Niger–Congo languages spoken by many slaves from West Africa, the vegetable okra was known as ki ngombo or quingombo; the word is akin tothe Umbunduochinggômbo and the Tshiluba chinggômbô “okra”. In the language of the native Choctaw people, filé, or ground sassafras leaves, was called kombo.- Stir the Pot: The History of Cajun Cuisine.

 

 a slice of okra

a slice of okra

 

 Traditional Creole gumbo is made of local stuff- shrimp and seafood from the Gulf of Mexico, okra- introduced to the southern U.S. by African slaves in the eighteenth century – and filé powder made from native sassafras trees, local veggies and seasonings. And, depending on how far away from the Gulf you are, meats like chicken, duck, sausage and small game like squirrels often replaced the seafood. The French influence of the dish can me seen in the use of a roux to thicken and flavor the stew’s sauce.

Though a vegetarian version of this might outrage a purist, it is not an apostasy to make this dish without meat proteins. In fact, there is so much going on in gumbo that a veggie version stands on its own, full of nutrition and bursting with wonderful flavours and textures. Eaten on its own or served with rice and garnished with scallions, this is veggie comfort food at its most comforting. The recipe below is a little mild, but it’s a good start. If you like it a little spicier taste as you go and feel free to up the heat.

Caught as we are between fall and winter, I can think of nothing more delicious, warming and healthy than a big bowl of vegetarian gumbo. The weather forecast for this coming Meatless Monday? Cloudy with a chance of gumbo.

Vegetarian Gumbo

Serves 8

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 medium tomato, chopped

2 medium onions, chopped

8 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

3 teaspoons teaspoons hot sauce

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 teaspoons chilli flakes

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 litre vegetable broth

4 cups sliced okra

1 sixteen ounce can red beans, drained

10 mushrooms, quartered

1 medium zucchini, diced

1 green pepper, diced

1 red pepper, diced

1 stalk celery, sliced celery

salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Place vegetable oil and flour in a Dutch Oven and whisk over medium heat for about five minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and whisk slowly until roux caramelizes, about twenty minutes. Remove Dutch oven from heat. In a food processor, process tomato, onion, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, liquid smoke, vinegar, hot sauce, soy sauce, thyme, chili flakes, paprika, nutmeg, and oregano until mixture is smooth. Place Dutch oven with roux over medium-high heat and add tomato/onion puree. Stir to mix together. Continue to cook until most of liquid has evaporated. Add vegetable stock and stir. Bring to a simmer.Add okra, beans, mushrooms, zucchini, green and red pepper, and celery and simmer for twenty minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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