Gluten Free Southern Vegetarian Menu: Southern Greens and Vegetarian Gumbo Recipe

gumboblue.jpgAs you may know, I’m a northwestern girl through and through, being born in Seattle and having gone to college in Portland. I love the Northwest for its own rich culinary cuisine, enriched by its agriculture and local fisheries, not to mention espresso. But I’ve always been curious about the cuisine on the other side of the country in the South, although it seemed like it might be too based on meat dishes (barbecued ribs, southern fried chicken, jell-o salads and the like) for a vegetarian diet. And of course, gluten tainted biscuits, breads, cakes, and sauces play starring roles in Southern cuisine, further complicating the matter.
However, as I learned from some vegetarian southern friends long ago, many foundational Southern comfort dishes like biscuits or slow cooked greens are easily divested of any meat based ingredients with absolutely scrumptious results. Further, many gluten free cookbooks have offerings for Gluten Free Biscuit recipes and pies. One of my favorites is the recipe for bisquik like gluten free biscuits in Bette Hagman’s The Gluten-Free Gourmet Cooks Fast and Healthy: Wheat-Free and Gluten-Free with Less Fuss and Less Fat.I also own a unique cookbook specializing in gluten free southern recipes, although I tend to rely on Bette Hagman or Carol Fenster’s recipes for basic breads. If making biscuits from scratch seems like too much, you can find a biscuit mix from Allergy Grocer or The Gluten-Free Pantry Quick Mix.

ezfriedokra2.jpgI was recently inspired by a new (non GF) cookbook,Cookin’ Southern Vegetarian Styleto begin experimenting with the classic cornerstone of southern (especially Cajun) cuisine, roux. I first used a gluten free roux recipe to add flavor and depth to my dairy free, soy free spinach pie recipe. There was so much roux left that I decided to make a gluten free variation of a vegetarian gumbo recipe found in the above book, using heirloom tomatoes and chickpeas for additional protein and flavor. I had more okra than the recipe required, so after I cut them into chunks, coated them in cornmeal and fried them in sesame oil, I put three quarters of them in the gumbo, but served the remainder as an easy fried okra appetizer. I served the gumbo with a tasty spicy onion corn muffin recipe by Bette Hagman- it was just as good as I remembered, and it perfectly complimented the gumbo. Rice would also be tasty with gumbo, if you’d prefer. It’s the most traditional accompaniment to gumbo anyway.

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Although I’ve been disappointed with some recipes from the Cookin’ Southern Vegetarian cookbook (like the Big Bubba Tofu), my most recent experiment with slow cooked southern style greens was a huge success. DH has always balked at most greens- spinach and kale are two of his least favorite vegetables. However, when he took his first (reluctant) bite of these slow-cooked peanut greens, he looked surprised and mentioned how they “melted in the mouth.” Then he took another bite. Success! I had always been skeptical of southern greens and their lengthy cooking times. To me it seemed as though all the vitamins and flavor would surely be cooked out as the green disintegrated. But in contrary, these slowly cooked and seasoned greens seemed even more flavorful than my typical sauteed greens, and the melty buttery texture made the time investment well worth the effort. Like many of the author’s recipes, it is somewhat lacking in subtlety, so over the next few weeks I plan to tweak the recipe to be a bit healthier and more delicately seasoned. But, for now, here’s a recipe for slow cooked greens in yummy peanut sauce that I think even the most committed greens hater will enjoy.

Oh yes, and since Naomi of the Accidental Vegetarian and I are eerily in sync with our culinary inspiration, check out her alternate recipe for Not Quite Gumbo

Gluten Free Vegetarian Gumbo Recipe
Southern Roux:
1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup olive oil, less 2 tablespoons
2 tbsp sesame oil

1 large onion, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 tsp. fresh thyme
3 crushed garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 lb okra, chopped
1-2 tbsp. corn meal
6 cups GF vegetable broth from bullion (or from scratch)
3-4 cups chopped heirloom tomatoes (if in season)- or more, to taste
2-3 cups slow cooked chickpeas
1 package firm tofu, cubed (optional- I think I would leave it out next time, unless you want extra protein)
1/2 bunch chopped parsley
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp. pic-a-peppa sauce (confirm GF status)
1 tbsp GF tamari
1 tsp paprika
salt, to taste

Rice or corn muffins, for serving

Hot Sauce
Coarsely Ground black pepper

How to Prepare Roux:
Either use previously prepared roux (like that from the dairy free spinach pie recipe) or make new roux. Take equal parts flour and oil and slowly heat them in a cast iron pan on medium low for 10-45 minutes, stirring constantly. Heat the flour and oil for 30 minutes, stirring constantly. Dont let the flour burn- the slower the whole process goes, the better, as turning up the heat if you get impatient is just likely to result in burned roux.

How to Make Gumbo:
Take the pre-made roux and heat it on low in a large pot, about the size of a pot for spaghetti. Throw in the first seven ingredients and cook them for half an hour or so, making sure the roux is thoroughly combined with the vegetables. You want this mixture to be pretty dry but not to burn, so add water if you must. (The low temperature will help avoid burning.)

Take your okra. I took 2 lbs of okra, cleaned and sliced, and then mixed the slices with corn meal and fried them in a little sesame oil (less than a tablespoon) in a nonstick pan. I took about 1/2 lb of those fried okra slices and added a little salt and served them as lazy fried okra. The rest I threw into the gumbo pot (after the 30 minutes are up) along with the tomatoes, chickpeas, parsley and bay leaves and all other seasonings. I poured in the vegetarian vegetable broth, mixed it, and added the tofu carefully. I brought the mixture to a boil and then lowered the heat to a simmer for a couple hours. (At least two hours is best). Taste periodically and add more seasoning to taste- hot sauce or cayenne pepper is a good addition.

Although I’m sure it is hideously untraditional, I added chickpeas to the gumbo and really liked the texture, flavor, and extra protein they added to the meal. I served the gumbo with some goats cheese sprinkled on top (I’m sure generations of southern grandmothers are spinning in their graves as we speak, but they were probably never going to approve of my vegetarian gumbo anyway. ;) ) and generous doses of coarsely ground black pepper. A little vietnamese hot sauce took it up a notch for my plate while DH enjoyed his without.
Southern Style Vegetarian Greens Recipe
1 bunch of greens (I like red chard, but anything will work)
3 cups water

1/3 cup peanut butter
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil (I prefer Japanese)
3 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp GF tamari (or less, to taste)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp sugar
1 large clove garlic
Juice of one lemon or lime (if desired)

Cut spine out of your greens, and wash the leaves. Cut them into bite size strips.

Bring your water to a boil in a pot and then put your greens in the pot, in stages if necessary. They will all fit, though! You don’t have to worry about being careful- just smoosh your greens in there. Then cover your greens and lower the temperature to a simmer for 45 minutes up to 2 hours. (No, i’m not kidding.) 45 minutes is probably fine for chard- the really tough greens like mustard greens or collards take a long time to get the desired buttery melty texture.

While your greens are simmering, combine sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor and process into a sauce.

When greens are done, drain them and put them in a pretty serving dish. Pour your sauce over them and serve.

There may be extra sauce, that’s ok, you can get greedy with it or reserve some for another snack- say, a small package of rice noodles with peanut sauce and fresh chopped veggies?)

The key here is in the long simmer. I’ve always had my greens either crunchy (baked in oven as “chips”) or somewhat chewy, but this is the first time I’ve had them prepared Southern style and while I was initially skeptical the texture is amazing.

The author says if you add a small handful of chopped dried dulse (seaweed) to the greens early on, it will add a salt “pork” type flavor. I don’t know if it’s true, but you can try it.

The sauce is very tasty, but like many of this author’s recipes, not especially subtle. I think I will probably work on tweaking it over the next month or so, but even the original is well worth a try.

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16 Responses to “Gluten Free Southern Vegetarian Menu: Southern Greens and Vegetarian Gumbo Recipe”

  1. yum! Those greens look fabulous — maybe I’ll give them a spin!

  2. [...] Tuesday: Vegetarian Cajun Vegetarian Gumbo with Spicy Corn Muffins (BH) [...]

  3. Wow, that looks like a great supper! I would have never thought to add fried okra to the gumbo – what was it like? And we’ll definitely be having those greens as soon as I get some collards. I’ve been trying to make sure we eat some sort of leafy green every day, and these look scrumptious.

    Mary Frances

  4. Yea! It’s nice to see some love for southern food, especially meals like this which are now healthy and accessible to us GF cooks (thanks to you)! This looks great, I love the greens but I can’t do nuts right now- do you think omitting the peanut butter would cause a significant change in the texture/taste? This is beautiful and creative

  5. i have been searching for a gf-veggie friendly gumbo. i can’t wait to try this!! and i am sooo excited about the spinach pie– i was just talking about finding a recipe for this recently. i LOVE your site!!! thanks!

    btw– as for the nut comment– i usually use sunflower seed butter, as i can’t eat nuts either. much better than soynut butter.

  6. double dittos on the sunflower nut butter

  7. Hi Naomi! The greens are really yum- I keep wanting to make them again!

    Hi Mary Frances- The okra isn’t fried as such, just coated in cornmeal and sauteed in a small amount of sesame oil. I would guess I used 2 tsp. of oil all together. It’s tasty as a snack with salt, and when added to the gumbo adds more sesame oil flavor and the cornmeal gets mixed into the sauce.

    Hi Cindy! I’m glad you were happy to see some southern food. I’ve been in a “southern mood” since I got my new cookbook. However, I’ve always loved my GF southern fried tofu, mashed potatoes and vegan nutritional yeast gravy, maybe with some GF biscuits. It’s good comfort food! The peanut butter can be substituted with another nut butter- or you can omit the sauce and enjoy the greens as is, seasoned with some GF tamari (San-J or Braggs).

    Hi GlutenGirl- Glad to see you here and thank you for the comments. I’m always happy to have new visitors! And I’m so glad you like the site.

    Naomi! *wave* hug *wave*

  8. [...] Wednesday: American-Southern Garlic Grits Greens in Peanut Sauce [...]

  9. [...] continued at delivered by conSalsita [...]

  10. Hi Sea,
    Last night I made kale with the peanut sauce. You’re description was exactly right – the sauce is good, but not subtle. My sauce was much darker; maybe because I heated it up? I’m not sure, but I look forward to making it again after you’ve tweaked the recipe.

  11. Hi Mary,
    Yay! A new visitor! I’m really happy to hear you tried the recipe and enjoyed it! My recent onigiri post has a re-vamped version of this recipe with a Japanese twist. I will probably rework it for a more traditional southern side as well, so if the sesame based recipe doesn’t appeal to you, stay tuned. :)

  12. [...] Lately I’ve been in a southern frame of mind. I never really experimented with Southern food much, with the exception of maybe some gluten free biscuits and vegan gravy recipes that are even now my ideal comfort food. But, this little book, Cookin’ Southern Vegetarian Style, has really won me over. Oh sure, some recipes have the subtlety of a truckload of butter flavored crisco and a vat of tamari, but hidden among some of the rough stones there are some real recipe gems. I’ve also learned a lot about the slow dance that is the southern way of food preparation. Using the stovetop can be like watching tar drip- the hours invested in roux, or slow cooked greens- it seems like a lot of investment. But, the greens don’t need to be watched, and the roux makes a big batch for later use, and, well, sometimes the results are worth it! When I first made the slow cooked green recipe I mentioned that it needed some tweaking. Many readers are allergic to peanuts and soy, and were wondering about substitutions. I considered this a good excuse to pull out my favorite recent find- a Trader Joe’s Cashew Macadamia nut butter- and get busy cookin me up some allergy friendly greens! Some readers mentioned Sunflower butter as a good substitute for peanut butter, so if you can’t do Cashews or Macadamia nuts, you could try that as well. I actually simmered up my greens the night before and served a small portion with balsamic vinegar. Then I took the rest (sans vinegar) and put them in a yummy sauce the next day. I used collard greens, actually, but I personally prefer the flavor of chard, so you might try that instead. The best part of this recipes is DH, who is notoriously balky about greens, will actually eat a (small) serving of them with the meal. Of course yummy southern greens like this need a yummy southern style protein dish, so I took a chance on a recipe from the same cookbook, although I rather heavily modified it. Altogether a super tasty meal. I served them with brown rice for added nutritional value, but you can enjoy them with mashed potatoes or mashed sweet potatoes- or even biscuits- if you want to go all out and rustle up some super yum southern grub. So, enjoy! And why not make tonight a gluten-free, vegetarian, SOUTHERN night, y’all? [...]

  13. [...] it be nice to have biscuits regularly with my other southern dishes, like southern fried tofu or slow cooked greens? (Yes! Absolutely!) So I decided to turn things around a bit and instead of using ultra-rich [...]

  14. Hi — as a born & bred Southern mom and cook (with the double chin and round body shape to prove it), I’ve been looking for ways to get the same Southern taste in things without the saturated (i.e. meat source) fat. Looks like you’ve got a good start in that direction!!
    Long simmering is a classic Southern method for cooking a LOT of things –green beans, blackeye peas, any kind of greens (collards, mustard, turnip greens). It was done mostly to “multi-task” — they put the food on to cook and then went out to wash clothes or work the field or whatever. The liquid left in the pan was also eaten, soaked up with whatever bread was available, so they did get some if not all of the vitamins. (Not a bad thing to do these days, either.)
    It’s difficult but not impossible to make a non-meat, gluten-free replica of traditional Southern greens. I use sauteed garlic, tamari, and sugar as in the above recipe, and I also roast tomatoes and mushrooms and sometimes add those to the greens. They cook down and almost disappear, but the taste stays behind.

  15. a quick alternative Says:

    I was trying to make a vegan frank&beans from a recipe that called for vegan southern seasoned turnip greens, but I couldn’t find that in the store I was in. I found this recipe and just loosely based on the list of ingredients and what I had in my kitchen I ended up making up the following, which actually turned out so good that I was tempted to just eat them and forget about the “frank and beans”:

    grapeseed oil
    1 bag frozen spinach
    heaping spoonful of (chunky lightly roasted) peanut butter
    toaster-oven-tray-full of toasted sesame seeds
    generous cayenne pepper (tbsp?)
    generous garlic powder (tbsp?)
    ~2 tbsp (low sodium) soy sauce
    ~tsp of agave nectar

    I just heated the grapeseed oil til it sizzled when I flicked water at it, added the frozen spinach and stirred it up for a minute or two, and then turned down the heat and slowly added the rest of the ingredients, stirring as much as possible until hot.

  16. Delicious yummy looking pics! I am getting hungry while I am writing this comment! Would really like to try it! There is nothing like a taste of a good gumbo!

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