Today the world celebrates Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent for Christians. Traditionally, Lent is a fasting period so on Shrove (Fat) Tuesday one is supposed to indulge in fatty, rich foods that are banned during Lenten time. It is also the end of Carnaval so a big celebration of a feast before fasting is typically in order. I’m not going to lie, I’m part Cajun French and looove a good party (and used to love fatty, rich food) so I’ve experienced this celebration on more than one (or 20) occasions.
So…when a friend of mine who also happens to be an amazing DJ at Dallas’ public radio station, KNON ( http://www.knon.org), mentioned a Mardi Gras party in support of their station that included a Gumbo chef cook-off, I couldn’t resist. I put my vegan thinking cap on and came up what I think is an amazing, healthier version of Gumbo. No fat, not rich with butter or lard, and NO meat. Winning!!! Well, I didn’t exactly WIN the contest but I felt like a winner in my own right taking the challenge, successfully accomplishing it, and for the praise I received.
Here’s my Non-Fat Tuesday Gumbo (apologies for the worst pictures ever!):
Start by making a simple roux by heating about 3 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy, wide pan over medium-low heat. Sprinkle in 1/4 cup of flour with a wooden spatula and stir for about 4 minutes, until the flour is clumpy. Then add 1 medium, roughly chopped onion and 1 teaspoon of salt (ummm, pictured). Make sure you toss well to coat the onions completely in the flour mixture. Let this cook for about 5 minutes and then add 3 cloves of garlic, minced, and cook for another 30 seconds.
You want to then add 3 stalks of thinly, sliced celery; 1/2 of a red bell pepper, chopped; 2 cups of chopped tomatoes, and a 1/2 can of tomato sauce. let that cook and break down for about 10 minutes until the mixture becomes thick. Then season with some black pepper, a few bay leaves, 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika, and a few thyme sprigs.
Slowly stream in 2 1/2 cups of vegetable broth, stirring along the way to avoid clumping. Add one full package of frozen cut okra, a can each of kidney beans and garbanzo beans (or any other beans you have on hand), and turn up the heat, cover and bring to a boil stirring frequently. Once it begins to boil, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. Depending on your thickness preference you can cook longer to thicken or thin out a bit with some additional vegetable broth. Add some lemon juice for seasoning and remove the bay leaves thyme stems before serving.
Here’s me (making a weird face) describing my Non-Fat Tuesday Gumbo at the party. I topped each serving with a spoonful of rice and sprinkle of thyme. Delicious, nutritious, and enjoyed by those that had a sample.
Fat Tuesday may have a history of traditions but who says traditions can’t be modified, not this vegan.