Gumbo z’Herbes

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My fridge was overflowing with a variety of greens from my CSA boxes. It was a little overwhelming. What the heck am I going to do with all of these greens (especially rutabaga greens)? Luckily, I remembered reading about a Cajun dish using different greens. I scoured the internets looking at dozens of recipes, each one different from the last. Gumbo z’Herbes, also known as Green Gumbo, is basically a roux, Cajun mirepoix, and a medley of greens cooked until super tender. Easy enough.

Making the roux is an important step in this dish. The darker the roux, the better. You have to stir it constantly because it will burn right fast. I aim to get my roux to be the same color as a penny. This takes some time, about 30 minutes. The effort is worth it.

Traditionally, gumbo z’herbes is made with an odd number of greens. I used 5 different types of greens in my gumbo z’herbes: rutabaga greens, collards, spinach, mustard greens, and cabbage. If you can’t find 5 different types of fresh greens, it is fine to use some frozen greens.

Initially, I set out to make this a vegan dish. Traditionally, this is a vegetarian dish eaten during Lent. I had some smoked sausage in the freezer and decided to go with it. It gave the dish a great smoky flavor. If you wanted to make the dish without meat, a dash of liquid smoke would give the dish a similar smokiness.

Gumbo z’Herbes (Green Gumbo)

1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup flour
2 large onions, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups water
1 bunch each of at least 5 different greens (such as mustard greens, collards, spinach, kale, cabbage, beet tops, turnip greens, rhutabaga greens, swiss chard, sorrel, chicory, radish leaves, carrot tops, dandelion greens, lettuce [romaine, red leaf, green leaf, etc… do not  use iceburg], parsley, watercress, arugula, etc….)
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon thyme
3 bay leaves
salt and black pepper, to taste
12 ounces smoked sausage (preferably Andouille), sliced

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until dark golden brown, 15 – 30 minutes. Add the onions, celery, bell peppers, and garlic and cook, stirring often, until soft, 8-10 minutes.

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Add the 8 cups of water to pot. Increase the heat to high and bring to boil. Add the greens, cayenne, Tabasco, thyme, and bay leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until greens are very soft, about 1 hour. Add the sliced sausage and simmer 30 more minutes.

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Remove the bay leaves before serving. Serve gumbo over cooked white rice.

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Seafood Gumbo

Seafood Gumbo

This is one of those dishes that requires lots of time and lots of babysitting, but it’s so worth it. Gumbo reminds me of my grandmother.  She would make gumbo from time to time and was the person who introduced me to this dish from Louisiana. I adapted this from my grandmother’s recipe. There are a million different gumbo recipes and one can add all kinds of ingredients (like oysters, chicken, sausage, alligator, etc…) to make it their own.

Seafood Gumbo

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups diced celery
1 1/2 cups diced onion
1 1/2 diced green bell pepper
4 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
1 1/2 cups sliced okra
1/4 pound crab meat
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 T. fresh lemon juice
1/2 T. sugar
1/2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1/4 tsp. dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp. old bay seasoning
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
1/4 tsp. gumbo file powder (optional)
cooked rice
hot pepper sauce (crystal’s or tabasco)

In a dutch oven, heat flour and oil over medium-low heat. cook, stirring almost constantly, until the flour browns to a dark, mahogany color, being careful not to let it burn. This takes about 30 minutes.

This is what the roux looks like at the start: roux 1

This is what the roux looks like after about 15 minutes: roux 2

This is what the roux looks like when it’s ready, about 30 minutes: roux 3

Stir in the celery, onion, and bell pepper. cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 10 to 20 minutes. add vegetable or chicken stock, okra, and crabmeat; cook for 30 minutes more, stirring often. Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, parsley,lemon juice, sugar, oregano, thyme, old bay seasoning, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne. At this point, I also add several healthy shakes of hot pepper sauce to the gumbo. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the shrimp and file powder, if using. Cook until shrimp have cooked through, about 15 mintues.

Serve warm over rice with hot pepper sauce.

Makes about 10 servings. recipe can be frozen for up to 2 months.


Vegetarian Gumbo

Vegetarian Gumbo

vegetarian gumbo

From November 6, 2005:  I had a bag of frozen okra that needed to be used and so I created this vegetarian gumbo in order to use it.  It turned out beyond expectations….really, really good.  Serve this gumbo with some crusty bread and laissez les bon temps roulez!

Vegetarian Gumbo

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup flour
1 large onion, diced
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, with juices
6 cups vegetable stock
1 pound fresh or frozen sliced okra
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1 T. fresh parsley, chopped or 1 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1 medium zucchini, diced
hot cooked rice

In a Dutch oven, heat flour and oil over medium-low heat.  Cook, stirring almost constantly, until flour browns to a copper color, about 20 to 30 minutes. (Hint:  I have a penny next to the stove to compare colors).  Add onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic to the roux and cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.  Add tomatoes and their juices, vegetable stock, thyme, oregano, parsley, salt, pepper, and cayenne.  Add the okra. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add zucchini and simmer 20 to 30 more minutes, continuing to stir occasionally.

To serve, place about 1/2 cup hot cooked rice in a bowl and ladle hot gumbo over the top.  Pass the Tabasco and enjoy.