In the past, I have participated with several different C.S.A.s by paying for my box of food every month. With a sick dog money has been tighter than ever so I decided to volunteer with my friend Andrea at a local farm in exchange for a box of food. Now this is a pretty extreme action for a lazy smurf such as myself to undertake. I had to wake up at 7 am on a Saturday to do 5 hours of manual labor! Usually I spend Saturday morning cuddled up with beagles and eventually mustering up the energy to make some brunch around 1 pm. With the sun just peeking its little head out of the night sky and a large coffee in my hand I drove to Johnson’s Backyard Garden to start of day of picking vegetables. We started with eggplant.Even though it is the middle of October the plants are still producing like crazy and some of them were too small to pick. After filling our baskets with eggplant it was off to the pepper fields to pick a wide variety of peppers. This was my favorite part because they smelled so good and were really fun to pick, especially since each one is unique and came in a different shape.After picking peppers we moved into the string bean field and this is when the serious work began. I found out that green beans are so labor intensive to pick that farmer Brenton said even if he charged ten dollars a pound it wouldn’t be cost effective. But since people like them so much (and he does too) they decided to start a small crop a couple years ago.
It takes forever to pick the beans, they grow like crazy all over the plant and you have to pull everything apart to get to them while being very careful to not compact the ground or step on the plant. After a couple of hours of work I still didn’t have a quite a full basket and had done maybe a third of my row.
So now I have even more respect for farmers, and I already had a lot! I spent the whole day thinking about my grandparents in their old village, migrant workers, slaves on cotton plantations, the true cost of food, and, of course, what I was going to make for dinner. When we got back to the farmhouse we each stood by a type of vegetable and filled them all into boxes assembly line style. It was really fun! I started to get so hungry because by then it was after noon and all I had to eat was a couple string beans! Note, if you ever volunteer on a farm bring a freaking granola bar or something because it is really hard work. So finally we got our boxes and headed home. I got so many organic vegetables I couldn’t believe it. Eggplant, peppers, hot peppers, amaranth greens, bok choy, arugula, basil, green beans, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, butternut squash, and lots and lots of okra! Here in the south okra is like zucchini in the north. It grows like crazy in the summer and people are always giving you some.
I became obsessed with the idea of making gumbo. I had recently seen an episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown made a dark roux using his oven instead of the stove top. I had been waiting for some okra to appear in my life to try the method and finally the time had come. I also made some Andouille sausage testing a spice combination from the ppk but it didn’t work out at all, the sausages were good enough to put in the gumbo but I will have to work on the Andouille recipe. You could use any other vegan sausage or other legumes in the gumbo, it will still be good. In fact, it will be so good that you might be inspired to sing about it. The Gumbo recipe is mostly from the Veganomicon, but it is really enhanced with the roux and the fresh stock.
Chez Rolez Gumbo
For the Roux, Preheat oven to 350 degrees
4 oz of flour (by weight)
4 oz of vegetable oil
bake for an hour and a half, whisking four or five times throughout the process. You want it to be a dark brick red without any black flecks.
For the Stock
add to stock pot on medium heat
8 cups of water
1 leek (with green parts)
2 celery stalks
1 bay leaf
2 smashed cloves of garlic
dash of Thyme
Simmer for 40 minutes or so. If you are making sausages you can steam them over the stock pot!
For the Gumbo
Put the Brown Roux on the stove top over medium heat
Saute for 10 minutes with
1 onion, chopped
3 shallots, chopped
2 bell peppers or equivalent (I used a whole mess of sweet and spicy peppers), chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 lbs okra, sliced
Cook for another few minutes and then add
5 roasted red peppers, sliced
1 recipe sausage or 1 can beans
the strained stock (about 6 cups)
1 cup of Ale
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons oregano
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
2 bay leaves
Cook for about 40 minutes and then add
juice of a lemon
Cayenne to taste
salt & pepper to taste
fresh thyme, oregano, and parsley
Serve with a pile of rice in the middle and some garlic bread on the side and Enjoy!