Saturday, September 5, 2009

Gumbo Z'Herbes with Chili Corn Bread

Faced with the remaining 3 1/2 pounds of okra in the fridge, I was looking for recipes that featured okra, but didn't require me to eat too much of it at one sitting. This recipe, from The Global Vegetarian cookbook, helps increase our okra intake, while balancing it out with a slew of other vegetables.

I'm not a fan of the let's-try-to-make-vegetarian-food-taste-like-meat recipes, so I had some doubts about a veggie gumbo. Veggie chilies, for example, usually just taste more like tomato stew than anything else. But I thought this dish -- especially when coupled with the corn bread -- was quite tasty and filling.

If using dried beans, begin by soaking your beans overnight. The recipe calls for kidney beans. I have an aversion to the way kidney beans look like a particular insect, and so frequently use the smaller red bean instead.


Once beans have soaked overnight, drain them. No need to do any of that 90 minute boiling because the beans will cook in the gumbo.

This gumbo calls for onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, tomato, carrots, okra, and spinach, in addition to other seasonings. As always, I recommend prepping your ingredients before beginning. Here, you see the Pyrex containers holding groups of ingredients that will be added together.


Saute the harder vegetables (onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic) first, until tender, about 7 minutes. Then, add all remaining ingredients (except spinach) and cook about 15 minutes.


Add spinach. Here, I also added fresh parsley. The recipe called for dried parsley to have been added already, but I didn't have any and so used fresh instead. (With stews, soups, gumbos, etc, you can be very loosey-goosey with the ingredients.) Once spinach is added, cook 15 minutes more. Serve with rice and cornbread.

I opted for a peppery cornbread available in the same cookbook. Begin by combining wet and dry ingredients into separate containers. This cornbread is pretty standard in its foundation (flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt), but it is made more special by what goes into the "wet" ingredients: not only buttermilk, oil and eggs, but also jalapenos, pimientos (here I used a fresh red hot pepper instead of a pickled pimiento), corn kernels and scallions.


Combine the wet into the dry and stir until just combined.

Now, corn bread fans out there will already know that the secret to good cornbread is to pour your batter into a very hot greased skillet. So, as you preheat your oven, make sure your cast-iron skillet (if you are using one) is already in the oven. Once the oven is preheated, go ahead and add the batter to the hot skillet. This particular cornbread only needed to bake about 18 minutes.

 
Assemble, and you have a very hearty meal to help usher in fall. The only thing I regret about this dish is that I forgot to tell the Other Half that dinner was ready, and so he didn't get any while it was still piping hot. Alas.


Tonight's dinner used up several peppers from the farm box, but I still have gobs more. I don't plan on using them any time soon, and rather than have them waste away in the crisper, I threw them into a freezer-safe ziploc bag and tossed them into my freezer. Unlike some vegetables which need to be blanched before freezing, I do nothing to the peppers before tossing them into the freezer like this.




Farm box ingredients used: onions, garlic, okra, and an assortment of peppers

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