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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gumbo Z'herbes

Unlike my two princess-, sparkle- and tutu-loving girls' I never liked pink, not even as a kid. 

Nope, my favorite colour was always green.

Nothing makes me feel happier than a big plot of really green grass.  You know, the kind that you can tell is watered and manicured on a regular basis.  Of course, this, like many other good things, has now been deemed "bad".  Caring for grass this way is not environmentally friendly.

Don't fret, we have no grass in back, and our front lawn is the size of a postage stamp and we NEVER water it.  Perhaps that's why it's more brown than green.

I think green reminds me of happy cartoon kid's shows and children's books that are brightly coloured and portray idealistic worlds where nothing really bad happens? I don't know.

But perhaps its my love of the colour green that is responsible for my adoration of leafy greens.  To eat, I mean.  Although, really, I also just find them delicious.

So when I came across a classic gumbo recipe that uses a plethora - and I mean plethora - of leafy greens, I was extremely excited.  Yeah, I know, I get excited by weird things.

Of course, I've modifed it a bit, but then you can find a lot of variations, and I'm betting there's a mama somewhere in the Bayou that makes a version similar to this...maybe?


All I know is I did NOT following Emeril Lagasse's recipe and using bacon fat and ham hock!  I did finally find nitrite-free turkey bacon at Whole Foods (Beretta Farms seems to be making it now), but I actually prefer sausage to bacon, so I went with spicy turkey sausage instead.

Traditional recipes don't contain any tomato, but my hub loves tomato, and since this dish indulges my greens obsession, I thought I'd indulge his tomato obsession a bit too.

Broccoli is also my own twist, because...I love broccoli and thought it would be great in this...and I was right!  Most recipes use a mix of: collard greens, chicory, dandelion greens, mustard greens, spinach, parsley, beet tops, carrot tops, and/or turnip tops.  Use whatever you prefer.

I just used what looked best at the market and what I like best.

You could easily veganize this by using chickpeas or black eyed peas instead of sausage.  I saw many variations in seasonings used, so don't be scared off if you can't find or don't like one I've used.  Customize according to your taste and you'll end up with an awesome meal, guaranteed.

Gumbo Z'herbes

1 tsp olive oil
1.5 lb turkey bacon or sausage (or 1 can beans)
Onion, finely diced
2-3 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbls cajun spice blend or chili powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 head broccoli, finely chopped
1 bunch kale, chopped
1 bunch rainbow chard, chopped
1 large can chopped tomatoes, with juice
2 Bay leaves
Green tabasco (or other hot sauce), to taste (optional)
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1 tbls file powder (optional)*

In a large skillet or pot, saute sausage, onion, garlic, broccoli (if using) and seasonings in the oil over medium heat.  Add remaining greens, tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer until greens are wilted.  Just before serving, stir in green onions and file powder.  Adjust seasonings, to taste.  Serve with brown rice (or other whole grain).  Serves 4.  Freezes well.

*I managed to find file powder at House of Spice in Kensington Market, and I bet you can probably also find it at St. Lawrence Market.  I can't say how widely available it is in Canada outside of Toronto, but you can certainly still make this dish without it.