Even the best cooks can’t work their magic without good ingredients. I like to think I know my way around a kitchen, but I can say with certainty that without fresh ingredients, my cooking would be pretty blah. In the summer, cooking becomes very simple for me: walk outside, see what’s ripe, and combine it with some of fresh herbs growing in the corners of the garden. Anyone can do it, anyone who’s lucky enough to have room to garden.
So I’d like to take a moment to thank the suppliers of two of the ingredients that went into today’s dish:
Next to my tomato plants, the hardest workers in my garden have been this Japanese eggplant bush and its 3 companions. They have kept my family eating eggplant 2 and 3 times a week, for which I, at least, am thankful. This is just the top of one plant, and you can count 4 developing eggplants as well as the flower at the top–it’ll be an eggplant soon. There were 4 more eggplants on the lower limbs of this plant and more on the other plants.
I didn’t plant enough okra, but the ones I planted have been steadily producing enough for me to be able to toss a handful into soups and casseroles every few days. Next year I’ll plant more, just so I’ll have enough of the young, tender vegetables to make Roasted Okra. The plants have such pretty flowers that I’m actually considering filling the flower bed in front of the house with them. See the little okra in the background? It’s just the right size for roasting, but I’d need about 20 more that size in order to justify heating up the oven.
Today’s recipe is really just a modification of the Chickpea Gumbo I’ve been making for years, except I walked outside, saw eggplants that were getting too big, picked them, and threw ’em in the pot. I increased the amount of broth and seasonings I use just a little, and the results were so good that even E the Eggplant Hater loved it. (It probably didn’t hurt that she was in the kitchen helping cook this, which always increases her appetite for foods she says she hates.) But if you don’t have eggplant (or really don’t like it), don’t let that stop you from making this recipe. You can substitute any vegetable you want for the eggplant, and I’ve even heard of some people substituting for the okra, though I really don’t advise that. In my opinion, gumbo without okra is just soup!
- 2 tablespoons unbleached white flour
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 medium green or yellow pepper, chopped
- 2 celery ribs, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
- 8 ounces eggplant or other vegetables, diced (see note)
- 1 pound sliced okra, fresh or frozen
- 1 16-ounce can chickpeas — (drained)
- 1 teaspoon salt — (or to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper — (or to taste)
- 1-3 teaspoons Tabasco
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring (or chipotle chile powder to taste)
- 2-3 cups additional broth or water
- In a small skillet, toast the flour over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until it is a uniform tan color, about the color of whole wheat flour. (If you use whole wheat flour for this, it will of course be darker.) Be very careful not to burn it. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- Heat a large non-stick pot and sauté the onions, pepper, and celery over medium-high heat. When the vegetables begin to get brown, add the garlic and browned flour and stir to combine. Add the vegetable broth and tomatoes, stir, and add all the remaining ingredients. The gumbo should have enough liquid to resemble a chunky soup; if it is too dry, add some more vegetable broth or water. Cook for at least 30 minutes, until the flavors have a chance to mingle. Remove the bay leaves and serve over rice.
If you use softer vegetables like zucchini or summer squash, add them after the gumbo has cooked for 15 minutes; adding them earlier will make them mushy. Carrots, eggplant, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and other longer-cooking vegetables can go in with the okra and other ingredients.
Preparation time: 20 minute(s) | Cooking time: 40 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 8
Makes 8 servings. Each (without rice) contains 135 Calories (kcal); 1g Total Fat; (6% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 28g Carbohydrate; trace Cholesterol; 611mg Sodium; 7g Fiber.