Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gumbo Z'herbs

This is a wonderful recipe for anyone who is vegan, vegetarian, or enjoys meatless meals on occasion. Traditionally it is made on Holy Thursday to be eaten on Good Friday because it is a day of fasting and abstinence for many Catholics. It was a meal that came about in New Orleans because although the No-Meat-On Friday Rule for Catholics was usually not a problem for most, this particular day posed a problem because it is a day of fasting. So for many who do not agree with the Friday seafood feast it can be toned down with this meal in keeping with the tone of the day.

All of the greens listed do not have to be used, but the more variety you have the more layers of flavor you will get in your gumbo.  This gumbo is also a great way to use all those tops to your root vegetables that you thought had no purpose. Carrot tops are actually quite tasty like a mixture of parsley and carrot.

A note on pepper grass. This is actually a weed found growing in fields, edges of woods and abandoned lots. I can remember chewing the seeds as a kid because of the distinctive pepper flavor that they have. It is not necessary if you do not know what it is or can't find it, but it is a nice addition if you can get it.So don't be afraid to try it you probably won't even miss the meat.

 Gumbo Z'herbs(Green Gumbo)
  • 1 bunch collard greens
  • 1 bunch mustard greens
  • 1 bunch turnip greens
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • 1 bunch watercress
  • 1 bunch beet tops
  • 1 bunch carrot tops
  • 1 bunch radish tops
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 bunch chicory
  • 1 bunch pepper grass (if you can find it)
  • 1 bunch arugula
  • 1 bunch sorrel
  • 1 bunch dandelion greens
  • 8 or 10 sprigs of tarragon
  • 1 head romaine, green-leaf or butter lettuce (not iceberg)
  • 1 green cabbage
  • 1/2 bunch green onions
  • 1 gallon water, salted
  • 1 large smoked ham hock (optional; omit if you want it strictly vegetarian)
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 2/3 cup oil or butter
  • 3 large onions, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 4 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves(optional)
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme (please try not to use dried for this dish)
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 whole allspice berries
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • 6 cups cooked rice
Wash all greens thoroughly and remove all stems or hard centers. Chop finely and put aside. In a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot make a brown roux of the flour and oil or butter (or a cup of purchased roux). Add 4-6 quarts of water and bring it to boiling. Add the ham hock Let it continue to boil while you chop your onion, bell pepper and celery and sauté for 10 minutes.

The Ham can be taken out at this point since it is used as a seasoning to flavor the gumbo only(and saved for another use), added to the pot if desired, or omitted completely for a completely vegetarian meal.
Add the onions to the roux and water. Add the greens, herbs, spices, and seasonings. Simmer on low heat for 1 hour 1 ½ hours. Adjust seasonings as necessary.

Serve in large gumbo bowls. Put 1/2 cup of rice in each bowl, and ladle generous quantities of gumbo over it. Optionally, you may season each bowl with gumbo filé. Yield: 12 servings

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