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Gumbo Zeb

from The Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon

In gumbo making, assembling your readied ingredients beforehand is a must. Measure out your spices, wash and chop your vegetables and greens, lay out the ingredients for each mixture on its own tray before you begin any actual recipe directions. There'll be a lot going on, you'll have your hands full; you cannot possibly assemble the ingredients as you go. This recipe will leave you with a fantastic base for soups and stews. When finished, dilute it with any savory liquid or stock to taste. Freeze the remainder for up to four months. Makes 2 to 3 quarts.

1/2 cup mild vegetable oil, such as corn, canola, or peanut (not olive oil)
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Vegetable Saute
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) butter (could use olive oil here, to make it vegan - rkm)
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and, chopped
1/2 bunch celery, with leaves, chopped
1/2 large bunch (4 to 5 large) scallions, chopped

Seasoning Puree
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons Pickapeppa sauce (look for it next to the steak sauce and Tabasco at the grocery -rkm)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 1/2 teaspoons Tabasco
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 to 4 good grinds of fresh black pepper
1 can (8 ounces) whole tomatoes, drained, coarsely chopped, the juice and tomatoes reserved separately
1/2 bunch Italian parsley, leaves and stems, rinsed and coarsely chopped.

Stock and Greens
Cooking spray (or a little olive oil, I personally don't like cooking spray - rkm)
3 cups any well-flavored vegetable stock (recipe to follow)
One cup tomato juice or V8 vegetable juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
3 bunches assorted greens (choose from mustard greens, spinach, turnip greens, beet tops, collard greens, kale and swiss chard) very well washed and cut into thin ribbons.

To serve
Hot cooked white rice; any cooked, sliced or crumbled soysage (or real meat for the omnivores -rkm)

1. Make the roux with the oil and flour. Pour the oil into a large skillet or pot. Turn the heat to medium and immediately whisk in the flour. Stir frequently as the roux changes color from white to yellow to fairly brown. While the roux cooks, proceed with the other steps, but be sure to keep and eye on the roux, stirring very frequently. Warning -- this is a long, slow process requiring attention. (See note to follow on Toux Doux a Roux).

2. Prepare the vegetable saute: In a heavy cast-iron skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until softened, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the bell pepper and celery; lower the heat slightly and continue sauteing for another 10 minutes. (Don't forget that roux-keep stirring it while the vegetables saute.) Add the scallions and saute until limp, about 5 minutes more.

3. Meanwhile, between the sauteing and the roux-stirring, you will have time to prepare the seasoning puree (trust me, you will). Place all the ingredients for the seasoning puree except the tomatoes and parsley in a food processor. (Pause to stir both roux and vegetable saute.) Buzz the puree ingredients until the garlic is finely chopped.

4 Check the roux again (has it started to brown?), then add the tomatoes and parsley to the food processor. chop coarsely.

5. Pause to take note of where you are, and to stir the roux and vegetable saute. (By now you have three mixtures: the roux, the sauteed vegetables, and the spicy, chunky paste in the food processor.) So far, so good. When the vegetables have softened, remove from the heat and set them aside. Keep working on the roux until it has reached a nice toasty brown. It may be ready now, or it may take a little longer.

6. Now prepare the stock and greens into which the other three mixtures will eventually go. Spray a large soup pot with cooking spray. In it, bring to a boil the stock and 1 cup the tomato juice(I think the reserved juice from the whole tomatoes??- rkm). Add the salt and bay leaves. Drop in the fresh greens. Bring back to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes.

7. Stir in the roux. By now it should be dark caramel brown, but if it isn't, continue to cook it, stirring. When the roux has browned, remove it from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes. Drain off any excess oil that has separated out, but be sure to leave every bit of the browned flour. Vigorously whisk in the 1 cup tomato juice. It will be smooth and thick, a pale orange paste.

8. When the greens have finished their 30-minute simmer, remove them from the heat. To the stock pot, add the roux mixture, the vegetable saute, and the seasoning puree. Give a taste and adjust the seasoning, set the pot back on the stove, and let simmer over the lowest possible heat, covered, for 15 minutes. Stir often.

9. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. That's it -you've got your concentrated gumbo base, enough, when made into soup, to feed 5 to 10 hearty eaters. It freezes well, so for smaller batches of Gumbo Zeb, use part now, and freeze the rest in small portions.

10 Completing the Gumbo Zeb: Now dilute the base with any savory liquid or stock to taste. Equal parts base and stock make a delicious soup, but if you like a particularly fragrant, spicy gumbo, you might use 60 percent base to 40 percent savory liquid. Add any soysage, sauteed, sliced, and served in a bowl with a mound of cooked rice. (Good sprinkled with gumbo file powder when you serve it-rkm)

Variation: If in the ingredients list I have missed any greens you have frozen from last year's garden, or if you chance to find some green exotics at the local supermarket, by all means add them. Also, it the only fresh green you can find is cabbage, go ahead and drop 10-ounce boxed of frozen greens, as many of the varieties mentioned as you can find, into the boiling stock mixture.

Toux Doux a Roux

What turns good soup into a glorious gumbo? Simple: roux. There's nothing much to a roux (pronounced like the last syllable of "kangaroo") on the face of it -- mere flour and oil, cooked and stirred together until brown. Roux serves to thicken and flavor the gumbo.

1. Into a skillet, pour 1 part mild oil -not olive oil. Turn the heat to medium and whisk in 1 equivalent part unbleached all-purpose flour. Note the color -- a pale parchment-cream with a barely yellow tinge.
2. As the roux colors, keep whisking. It will become a light brown first, then will darken. My own preferred roux coloration is deep brown, just a shade or so past caramel. Preparing your roux ought to take at least 45 minutes; 1 1/4 hours is preferable. It cannot be hurried.
A roux can be made ahead of time and refrigerated. I have never kept a browned roux longer than two or three days before using it, but since there's nothing in it that would spoil, I imaging it would keep well for a couple of weeks. But why would you want to wait that long for gumbo? If you doux the roux ahead of time, reheat it gently before using.

Basic Found Vegetable Stock
Make a careful stock from scratch or use Imagine Foods, Kitchen Basics, or Pacific Foods Vegetable or Mushroom Broths when you need a stock with an absolutely predictable flavor. Most of the time you can be loosey-goosey and make this simple stock from vegetable odds and ends, feeling a certain self-congratulatory pleasure at your thriftiness and environmental-soundness. This stock's character changes, depending on what scraps dominate, but it's almost always good if you follow the basic guidelines. Despite its malleability, a found vegetable stock is rarely incompatible with a dish. If it is too mild at the end, jazz I up with a little tamari or shoyu soy sauce or a spoonful of whisked-in miso. Start accumulating ingredients over a few days to one week in a sturdy plastic bag in the fridge. Quantity variable.

About 8 to 10 cups assorted vegetable trimmings (carrot, onion, string bean, peas, celery, bell pepper, squash, tomato, mushroom, leek; anything but trimmings of cruciferous vegetables(broccoli, cauliflower, etc)).
1 whole head of garlic, papery skin on, cut in half across the middle (to expose each garlic clove)
1 onion, quartered, unpeeled
Water, to cover, preferably spring or filtered
About 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons salt per quart water

1. Bring all the ingredients to a boil in a large stockpot, preferably enameled or stainless steel. Turn the heat down to low, and let simmer gently, uncovered, for 1 hour or so.
2. Cool to lukewarm, then strain. Use immediately or store in the fridge or freezer.

Now you know why I double the batch when I am making this!
- Rhonda


• Gumbo Zeb
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• Wilted Mustard Greens and Cherry Tomatoes
• Roasted Pumpkin and Kale Soup
• Almond Lemon Cake
• Celeriac
• Green Bean and Radish Salad



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