So I get a produce share this week with probably 2/3 lb of fresh okra. That leaves me with 2 serious choices. Fried okra or gumbo. I mean I know I KNOW there are other things I can do with okra, but let's be honest those two routes are so damned good that who cares if you CAN do other things. I've been meaning to try vegan gumbo for a while after an ok-ish recipe my husband found that I really wanted to fix up. (My husband is vegetarian and there are just certain things I want to be able to make and include him on. Gumbo is one of them) So here is what I came up with.
As a warning I meant to add a bell pepper to the gumbo and honestly just forgot (this is what happens when you improv). I will probably add that next time I make this, but as this batch turned out so damned well I wanted to try to just reconstruct it as is. If you try this I'd recommend adding a finely chopped bell pepper to one of the vegetable stages. Which one really depends on what effect you want the pepper to have on the finished product. They both have pros and cons. I'm also going to group ingredients by phase and process because I personally think it will make the recipe more readable. If you'd prefer the all ingredients at the top traditional presentation let me know, but I don't make any promises. Also keep in mind this whole thing was improved last night with no real thought to developing a recipe, but my husband asked me to try to recreate it. This should be pretty close to what I made, but feedback will definitely help me refine the instructions. I also want to personally thank Paul Fehribach of Big Jones where I used to work for much of the inspiration and cooking bravery necessary to undertake this experiment. And with all that Awwwaaaaaayyy We Go!
Prep a bowl with 1st phase vegetables in it. They can all go in together.
4 medium carrots diced small
3 large ribs of celery diced small
1 medium/large onion diced small
4 cloves of garlic minced (I actually used jarred garlic for this)
Prep a bowl with the 2nd phase vegetables in it. They can all go in together.
10-14 oz okra cut into small pieces (this can be fresh or frozen)
2 medium zucchini diced
Prep a small bowl or ramekin with all the spices for the Gumbo. I know this might seem silly, but when you add them it needs to happen quickly so this step will make your life a lot easier.
2 bay leaves
1 tsp Thyme
2 tsp oregano
Several healthy twists of black pepper
1/2 tsp smoked salt
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp chili powder
cayenne to taste (this really varies based on your audience)
1 tsp paprika
a pinch of onion powder and granulated garlic (the dry and fresh provide very different flavors)
Put the following roux ingredients in your soup pot and saute on high heat mixing regularly until it just starts to turn slightly reddish brown. As soon as this starts turn the heat down to medium low and continue to cook, stirring constantly until it turns a dark brick red. If you are just doing this for the first time and are unsure of pushing the roux until it burns then you can err on the side of a slightly lighter red brick color. Darker rouxs will come with experience and comfort.
4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons cooking oil (avoid unrefined oils such as EVOO as they can become carcinogenic when they are heated too much and this process keeps the oil at a very high temperature for an extended period of time)
When your roux has reached the right color throw your 1st phase vegetables and the spices into the roux and toss the vegetables until they have started to give off some liquid and the roux seizes and darkens slightly. At this point you can turn the temperature up to medium high as you saute the vegetables and add the spices so that they can toast in the roux.
Saute until the vegetables start to soften and the roux dries up a bit again. You should also smell the flavor of toasted spices. Next add the first phase of moisture and legumes.
1 cans of diced tomatoes (I use fire roasted for the extra flavor, but any variety will work)
1 cup of french lentils rinsed and sorted to remove any pebbles
Cook the slurry that results down on low heat until it's smooth and begins to dry up a bit again. This will take between 15 and 20 minutes. You will need to stir occasionally to keep the mixture from sticking to the bottom of your pot. When it has developed a strong tomato aroma and has started to thicken back up add the broth and second phase vegetables.
2 quarts of vegetable broth
Simmer the gumbo on medium low heat until the zucchini and okra are done to your liking. Taste the broth and adjust the salt to taste. I always start cooking with enough salt to facilitate the chemical cooking processes I'm performing, but no more so I can adjust at the end to taste. I probably put in roughly another tsp of salt at the end of this process, but I was using mostly home made broth that I hadn't added any salt to yet. So if you're using store bought broth you might not need to make any adjustments, or just add a little additional salt.