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What’s this?  Another New Orleans recipe in one week?  This one comes in the form of a Daring Cooks’ Challenge!

Vegan Gumbo Z'herbes

Our May hostess, Denise, of There’s a Newf in My Soup!, challenged The Daring Cooks to make Gumbo!  She provided us with all the recipes we’d need, from creole spices, homemade stock, and Louisiana white rice, to Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo and Seafood Gumbo from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh. 

greens galore!
chop, chop, chop

Gumbo!  Growing up in Texas, I think it’s hard not to try gumbo at some point, but maybe that’s more the case if your dad is a gumbo fanatic.  I always thought it was pretty good, but had never mustered up enough ambition to make it.  But then in true Daring Kitchen form, a recipe just like gumbo (ambitious?) is perfect for a challenge!

cutting slimy okra

Denise chose recipes by John Besh, who recently opened up a restaurant here called Lüke!  I’ve been to it, but just for drinks…everything on the happy hour menu had meat in it, so I didn’t eat any.  Really nice place, though!  His recipes sound good, but I went with the vegetarian gumbo recipe that Denise linked to.

adding greens

Gumbo Z’herbes (from gumbo aux herbes) is a type of gumbo popular for Lent (no meat!) that uses lots of greens.  The idea is to have at least 3 types, but up to 5, 7, 9, etc.  Evidently you want to have an odd number because you’ll meet a new friend in the year?  I’m not superstitious, so I went with 4.  :P  Also, I made a few tweaks by adding carrots for more colors, okra because I wanted it, and red beans for protein.

Vegan Gumbo Z'herbes

Gumbo Z’herbes
adapted from Chow.com

This gumbo is fantastic, healthy, and vegan!  It’s chock-full of veggies and greens, as in about 5 pounds of produce.  Dang!  It wasn’t difficult to make, but definitely set aside quite a bit of time.  Or better yet, make the roux one day, prepare the greens another, then finish it off on the third.  I made it all on one day…

For the greens:
5 bunches greens, such as collard greens, chicory, dandelion greens, mustard greens, spinach, parsley, beet tops, carrot tops, or turnip tops (enough to equal about 3 pounds) – I used kale, mustard greens, collard greens, and chard
3 cups water

For the gumbo base:
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 medium yellow onion, medium dice
1 bunch scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced, green tops reserved for garnish
1 large green bell pepper, medium dice
4 celery stalks, medium dice
2 carrots, sliced
1 large garlic clove, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
2 cups water or low-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup sliced okra
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning (either purchased or homemade)
2 whole cloves
3 allspice berries
2 dried bay leaves
1 tablespoon minced marjoram leaves
1 15-ounce can red beans, drained and rinsed
Green Tabasco (I didn’t use this…)

Prepare the greens:  Rinse the greens.  Remove any large ribs and cut or tear into smaller pieces.  Put all of the greens either in the sink or large pot and fill with water.  Let sit for 5 minutes, then lift the greens out and set in a colander to drain.

Put the greens in a large pot and pour in the water, seasoning generously with salt.  Set over medium-high heat and once the water starts simmering, lower the heat and cover tightly with a lid.  Let cook for 15 – 20 minutes, turning over the greens with tongs occasionally.

When the greens are soft and wilted, strain them, reserving the cooking liquid (should be about 3 1/2 cups).  Puree about half of the greens in a blender or food processor, adding some of the liquid if needed.  Set aside.

Prepare the gumbo: In a large pot, heat the oil on medium heat.  When hot, sprinkle in the flour, whisking constantly to prevent lumps.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and continue whisking until the roux darkens to about a peanut butter shade.

Stir the onion, scallions, green pepper, celery, carrots, and garlic into the roux with a wooden spoon.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook for about 5 minutes to soften the vegetables slightly.

Pour in the reserved cooking liquid and vegetable broth (about 5 1/2 cups total), and okra, and stir well.  Raise the heat to medium-high and let come to a simmer.  Stir in the 2 teaspoons of salt, Cajun seasoning, cloves, allspice berries, bay leaves, marjoram, and red beans.  Stir often and let simmer until the vegetables are softened and mixture is soupy (about 15 minutes).

Finally, stir in the prepared greens (including puree).  Cover and simmer for 10 more minutes.  Serve over cooked white rice and top with scallions.

Vegan Gumbo Z'herbes

I made the Louisiana style white recipe by John Besh that Denise included with the challenge!

Basic Louisiana White Rice (vegan)
adapted from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh
Servings: About 4 cups

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, minced
1 1/2 cups Louisiana another long-grain white rice
3 cups vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1-2 pinches salt

1. Put the oil and the onions into a medium saucepan and sweat the onions over moderate heat until they are translucent, about 5 minutes.
2. Pour the rice into the pan and stir for 2 minutes.
3. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.
4. Add the bay leaf and salt.
5. Cover the pan with a lid, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 18 minutes.
6. Remove the pan from the heat, fluff the rice with a fork, and serve.

Vegan Gumbo Z'herbes

Part of the challenge requirements was that we share with friends and family!  My fellow vegetarian friend Jill, always willing to try the things I make, came over for some gumbo on a nice evening.  She brought beer and bread, which was perfect!  I sent about a third of it home with her, then I’m bringing some to my parents this evening.  Gumbo is making the rounds!

Thanks for this interesting challenge, Denise!  Again, this is something I probably wouldn’t have ever thought to make, and I definitely learned a lot along the way.  For Denise’s incredibly informative challenge with many recipes, click here!

gumbo 'n beer!