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Thursday, March 6, 2014


Because there should be vegan versions of everything!

Last Sunday, the roomie and I volunteered at a gumbo cook-off event benefiting Ministry with Community, a daytime drop-in shelter located in downtown Kalamazoo.  I have been volunteering at MwC on and off for about two years and I absolutely love the place.  Everyone there- the staff, volunteers, members (the people they serve)- are all just fantastic.  This is the third gumbo cook-off I've volunteered at and it was better than ever!  Live music, over 30 restaurants participating in the gumbo contest, and lots of people (including several of my volunteer friends!), we had a blast.  But there was a serious lack of vegetarian gumbo!  So that got me thinking- why not make my own?

I had never made gumbo before.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I've never even eaten gumbo.  I know that it's a Southern dish that usually has seafood in it (blech), okra (not even sure if I like okra), and... other stuff???  Yeah, so I looked it up on Wikipedia.  [The Internet has all the answers.]  So gumbo is like a stew that is traditionally served over rice.  It can be thickened with file powder (dried sassafras leaves), okra, or a roux, but I guess not all three?  OK, well, I don't really like to follow the rules so I used all three anyway.  Oh yeah, I'm a rebel.

So I really just made a veggie stew, but you know what?  It was really frickin' awesome.  The store was all out of fresh okra so I bought pickled okra, chopped it, and used it as a garnish.  And it's amazing.  I'm not sure how I got this far in life without ever tasting pickled okra but man am I glad I know about it now!

Anyhow, I don't know how "authentic" this gumbo is, but I can say that it's delicious, easy to make, and will be happening again in the future!

3 Tbsp non-dairy butter
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 large bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup water
15 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp file powder
Hot sauce, to taste
Pickled okra, chopped, for garnish
Cooked rice

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat and stir in the flour until well combined.  Add onion, celery, pepper, and garlic  and saute for 5-7 minutes or until onions are soft.  Stir in the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, veg broth and water.   Toss in the kidney beans, then stir in the file powder and hot sauce.  I didn't measure how much hot sauce I put in.  It may have been two teaspoons, but I definitely added more to my own individual servings because it really enhanced the flavor.  In fact, I never even added salt and pepper.  Of course, you can, if you find it necessary.  I'm just saying I didn't need it.
Anyhow, once everything is in the pot, continue to let it cook over medium heat for 10 min or so, until all ingredients are heated through.  Serve hot over rice, top with chopped pickled okra if desired, and enjoy!

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