Sometime in the late 1980s, there was a short-lived fascination with Cajun cooking. Living about 1,000 miles North of New Orleans, I bought a Paul Prudhomme cookbook and took a deep dive into a Cajun dinner party. An entire kilo of butter later, I concluded that the real deal of Cajun cooking was ridiculously labor intensive with a fat content that exceeded my comfort zone — even back then.
I didn’t give much thought to Cajun for a few decades until a container of okra showed up at the door along with the UT Sustainable Food Center’s weekly collection of what’s in season.
Curious little pods. They grow like mad in the South, but a gal from the Midwest does not easily get on board with the okra thing.
Long story short: I now get it. The texture. The taste. Okra gives an entirely new dimension to everyday vegetables. Even more exciting is the discovery that olive oil makes a great roux and that Vegetable Gumbo (in my humble opinion) is far superior to the traditional, dark, high-fat, Andouille-sausage-and-shellfish-that resemble-big-insects version.
- 3 cups cooked, brown rice
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 3 large stalks of celery, chopped
- 1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
- 4 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 cups okra, sliced
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (or a 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes)
- 2 T. ground cumin
- 1 T. paprika
- 1 T. oregano
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 3-4 cups vegetable stock
- Heat olive oil in a cast iron or heavy bottomed pot and add flour. Whisk over high heat for about 10 minutes to form a caramel-colored roux.
- Add chopped onions, peppers, celery and carrots. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until vegetables soften.
- Stir in spices and add stock. Reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook for 30 more minutes, stirring frequently.
- Serve over rice.