I was a tad skeptical about making this. Gumbo normally gets it's trademark smokey flavor from sausages. This is vegan so It didn't call for sausages or shrimp or chicken. However, I decided to give this a shot because it came from a vegan cookbook that I have come to love and trust to deliver on taste. In the end , this was fab. The smokiness was totally there thanks to a little liquid smoke, roasted red peppers and fire roasted tomatoes. The backbone of the gumbo was held up by yeasty beer and thick tomato paste. The usual suspects were there; okra, onions, celery and bell pepper and also the addition of kidney beans, a not so usual suspect, and when it all came together wonderful things happened. It thickened up beautifully and tasted divine. I sound surprised, and I was. I was surprised because it was so good that I probably would have chosen to eat this gumbo over any other meat filled one even before the word vegan became so loosely used in our household.
I hate when food pretends to be something ( like gumbo) and falls terribly short because you cut out the main ingredients to accommodate a certain diet. Vegan in this case. However, if that said food turns out to be surprisingly wonderful AND can accommodate a certain diet, well then, I'm all for it. My kids downed this in a flash by the way. Probably because the vegetables don't taste like vegetables. They taste smokey and mild due to the cooking process. Oh, about the cooking process. You'll notice the recipe says to sometimes let certain vegetables or flour cook together for a longer period of time than normal before adding the next ingredients. Just do what it says. You can't argue the results. That being said, I did have to adjust the heat to low once because my peppers started to burn a bit before it was cooked through like the recipe asked.
And lastly, a disclosure. I used butter instead of earth balance or another vegan margarine. I know, I know, that defeats the purpose, but I can't stand vegan margarine. It was my only tweek.
Smokey Red Peppers And Beans Gumbo
adapted from "Veganomicon"
1/3 cup vegan margarine, (or butter for non vegans)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 medium sized onion, cut into small dice
2 green bell pepper, cut into small dice
1 stalk celery, sliced thinly
4 fat garlic cloves, minced
1 (12-ounce) package frozen, sliced okra
1 (28-ounce) can fire roasted tomatoes with their juice
3 roasted red peppers, jarred or homemade chopped into fine dice
1 (16-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups vegetable broth (more if needed)
1 cup ale-style beer
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 bay leaves
pinch of cayenne (optional)
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
5 cups cooked brown rice, for serving
First were going to make a roux: Preheat a large heavy bottomed stockpot over medium-low heat. Place the margarine in the pot and stir until melted. Sprinkle in the flour and stir to dissolve it. Cook the flour mixture, stirring frequently, until it is a rich caramel color and smells toasty, anywhere from 10-14 minutes.
Add the chopped onions and bell peppers to the roux mixture, stirring to coat completely. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook until the vegetables are very soft, at least 10 minutes.
Add the celery, garlic, and okra, and cook for another 6 minutes. Add the tomatoes, roasted red peppers, kidney beans, and vegetable broth. Whisk together the beer and tomato paste and add that to the mixture, stirring to incorporate completely. Stir in the allspice, liquid smoke, and grated nutmeg, and lastly tuck in the bay leaves.
Raise the heat and bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then lower the heat back to medium and partially cover. Allow the mixture to simmer 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until okra is very tender. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before serving, then season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Serve by itself or with a scoop of brown rice in the center of the bowl with the gumbo around.
This is a long list of ingredients. I know. But I wouldn't blog about it unless it were worth it. Also, a long ingredient list doesn't always mean a lot of work. You only need to chop the onions, garlic, and red peppers. The rest is a breeze.