I’m determined over the next two nights to make really tasty dinners for my girlfriend before she leaves for her European tour. Not because I imagine she’ll not get anything tasty while abroad (and Europe is so much more generous with these sorts of things than her band has ever encountered in the U.S.), nor even that I’m worried she won’t come back if I don’t remind her who she’s leaving behind for 17 days, but simply because I want her to focus on everything else she has to do to get ready. I took a risk making something new-ish tonight, but I’m happy to say we’re both glad I did!
Now let me say this: I’ve never been to Louisiana (though I’d like to go someday), and I’ve never had or made “real” gumbo. I can’t vouch for the authenticity of my ingredients or methods. This is largely based on a recipe we started making at the co-op with a few changes, most notably being taking the gluten out, and putting some extra pepper varieties and tomatoes in. Which, among other things, changes it from a Cajun-style gumbo to that of the Creole variety (the tomatoes and a lighter roux make it Creole); but having had the glutenous workplace version before and now my homemade version I can safely say that you can still make a tasty roux with gluten-free flour! Traditional, no, but it’s already vegan too, so there’s not much to argue on that point.
A roux is the basis of a lot of Creole/Cajun cooking essential to making gumbo that seems to be quite a focus of talent and pride. Essentially any roux is a mixture of fat and flour (brown rice and garbanzo in my kitchen today) that is used to thicken sauces, primarily in French-based cooking. The roux in gumbo is cooked for a far longer time than all roux I’ve encountered up to this point, and the deep color adds a characteristic flavor in addition to creating the basis for a silky, creamy liquid once you’ve added your stock. I’m too green to roux knowledge to provide a whole lot of input, but I do know it takes a long time to make and it should be neither rushed nor burned (for then you have to start over!).
This is just one interpretation that I’m positive breaks a lot of traditional rules (according to the wee information I’ve come across), including adding brown rice to the stew rather than serving the gumbo over it. I guess I’m not one who likes sticking to rules! And you don’t have to either…add other veggies, try different beans and greens and spices, but above all you should enjoy spending some quality time in the kitchen with a good wooden spoon and a large stockpot.
I tried my hand at some gluten-free sweet potato muffins to serve alongside the gumbo, which were pretty tasty and very moist, but largely in that stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth way, so I’m not going to post that recipe here today. Does anyone else have that problem when baking with mashed sweet potatoes or pumpkin? How I dreamed of making cornbread muffins, but all week I have been suffering the woes of indulging in corn-based treats last weekend. [In fact today I made a point of moving all corn flours, meals and husks in my pantry to the uppermost, ladder-required shelf of our 10-foot ceiling wall cabinets lest I be tempted again before I get my food sensitivity testing. Please help me, I never even got to break in my tamale steamer. At least toasted brown rice tortillas are delightfully crunchy vehicles for guac and salsa.]
Okay, enough of my long-winded histories, excuses, and misery-stirrings. Get ready for a huge pot of gluten-free, vegan gumbo (I’ve already put a few pints of leftovers in the freezer, plus some in the fridge for my lady’s lunch tomorrow), and share it with someone(s) you love.
Gluten-Free Three Pepper Red Bean and Greens Gumbo (makes about 3 quarts)
1/2 c safflower or canola oil
1/4 c + 2 tbsp brown rice flour
2 tbsp garbanzo/chickpea flour or besan
1 large onion, diced small
5 stalks celery, diced small
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced (or use another bell pepper)
1 1/2 tbsp paprika
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp thyme
1 tsp crushed red chili flakes, or to taste
1 1/2 tsp sage or poultry seasoning
several grinds freshly cracked black pepper
4 c vegetable stock
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 c cooked brown rice
1/2 bunch mustard greens, destemmed and cut into small pieces
salt to taste
In a large, heavy bottom stockpot, whisk together your oil and flours over low heat. Continue to cook over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until roux begins to darken. I like to prep all the rest of the ingredients while making the roux. Keep a watchful eye to prevent burning, stirring often, and cook roux to a medium-brown color. (It should smell toasty and delightful, and for me this took about an hour, though you can cook it longer.)
Carefully, as the roux is extremly hot, add your diced vegetables, stirring to coat. You can increase the heat very slightly, cover and let the veggies sweat for a few minutes. Uncover and add the spices, distributing them well, and continue cooking the veggies until softened. Add your stock and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has thickened. Stir in the tomatoes and rice, and return to a simmer, then add the mustard greens. (I like to cook my greens for just a few minutes to preserve the color, but feel free to cook them longer.) Salt to taste, and serve warm, remembering to remove the bay leaves.