Southern Cookin’: Vegetarian Gumbo and GritsPosted: August 27, 2011 | Author: Kaitlin | Filed under: Uncategorized | 3 Comments »
Ever since we watched the Charleston episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, I’ve been craving some traditional southern food. Actually, since we started tapering, I’ve been craving everything like crazy. How does that work? Anyway, last week’s barbeque baked beans, collards, and cornbread did a good job of satisfying my vegan Southern hankering, but there were two Southern staples that I was curious about. It has recently come to my attention that, despite living in the South for 3 years, I have never tried two of the staples of Southern cuisine: okra and grits. I’m not quite sure how that happened. Well, other than that I’ve heard that okra is slimy, and I have a Northerner’s snobby preference for oatmeal over grits. But I decided to get over that.
This morning at (the last of the season!) farmer’s market, we picked up some okra and stone-ground grits. While I’ve heard the best way to have okra is deep fried, I try to avoid fried food as much as possible. I’ve kind of lost my taste for fried food. That’s a lie. But it’s best for all involved if I avoid it. So I decided to try another Southern “classic” that I’ve never tried: Gumbo.
I’ve never really liked shrimp or sausage, so I’ve never had an authentic gumbo. We found a recipe for bean gumbo in the Moosewood Low-Fat Cooking book, and decided to give it a try. A quick google search revealed that most gumbo recipes start with a roux, but the Moosewood version avoided the 1/2 cup of butter and flour, and skipped the roux altogether. Since I’ve never tasted real gumbo, I figured I wouldn’t be missing the flavor, and there was plenty of other flavor from the jalepeno, green peppers, okra, tomatoes, paprika, fresh thyme, and liquid smoke. It also had two kinds of beans: white beans and black-eyed peas.
Now, I know you’re supposed to serve gumbo with rice. But if you can tell from the rest of this post, we weren’t really in a traditional mood this evening. I really wanted to try the stone-ground grits, so we decided to serve the gumbo over that. James, who grew up in Charleston, took full control of the grits.
We served the gumbo over the grits, and mixed it up. And… it was great! I didn’t expect to like the sliminess of the okra, but it thickened the stew and blended in with the other flavors. The jalepeno added a little bit of heat, without being overwhelming. It didn’t taste like anything I’ve had, and I definitely will be making it again. I have no idea if it tastes like “real” gumbo–it’s probably not even close, but it’s healthy, filling, and comforting. And if you haven’t noticed, that’s exactly what I like. The grits, though, were what made the meal. They were yellow, stone-ground grits from Oakview Granary in Wetumpka, prepared with water, salt and pepper, olive oil, and a little tabasco. I want to have them again for breakfast tomorrow. Which I guess is what I’m supposed to do.
Although it certainly wasn’t authentic, this meal satisfied both my Southern food craving and curiosity. I feel like I got a little closer to fitting in as a Southerner with this meal. But I’m not changing my accent. And let’s not talk about chitlins or pig’s feet, OK?