I got this recipe in email from a fellow named Mike Warner, from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada -- perhaps the last place from which you'd expect a gumbo recipe to come! But it looks pretty good, and I'm anxious to try it as soon as I get ahold of some fiddlehead ferns, a wild green with a short season and an asparagus-artichoke flavor. I'm sure you could substitute, as they're not likely to be easy to find, but then you'd just have to call it "Mike's Veggie Gumbo" ... :-)

So here it is -- I thought I'd let y'all give it a try in the meantime. And even though this gumbo comes from Manitoba ... well, the Acadians came from Canada originally, so maybe those guys still know a thing or two up there, eh? I'll reproduce the recipe in Mike's own words, with a little audacious editing from me.

"Hello, I am a lowly university student, living alone in a shanty apartment, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I only make recipes which are cheap to make, and yield a lot of meals. Needless to say, I make a lot of gumbos, soups, chilis and stews. I have many vegetarian friends, so I like to keep something in the freezer for them, just in case they come around. Anyway, I was just using up all the veggies in my fridge when I came up with this recipe. I made it, and it didn't last a week! All my friends, vegetarian and omnivore, chowed down -- I tell you, if they had their way, they would eat me out of house and home. Anyway, every time I make this gumbo, or one similar, I have great success.

Enjoy! -- Mike"

1) "Lots to do, and all at once!" says Mike. Well, it always helps to get organized -- do all your chopping and preparation (mise en place, as the French say) ahead of time. Mike actually recommends using 6 cubes of vegetable bouillon in 4 liters of water to make the stock, but you know how I feel about bouillon ... please please PLEASE make vegetable stock! It's easy and fun! Anyway ... add the cayenne chiles, and some of the Creole seasoning to taste, and let it simmer.

2) "I'm guessing everyone knows how to make a roux, but if not, here is what we do. Heat the oil in a small saucepan under low to med heat, add flour slowly. Stir non stop for about 20 - 30 minutes, this is very important! If the roux is rushed, or you have stopped stirring for even a few moments the roux is ruined. When you get a pretty brown color and a nice nutty smell, it is ready. I always make extra roux, because it is a pain in the ass to make, that way I don't have to make the roux next time." (Chuck says, if you're good at roux-making, and you know what you're doing and don't burn it, you can make a nice dark roux in less than half this time, but if you're new to it, do as Mike says. When your roux is just this side of dark, add your bell peppers and onions and lower the heat -- saute in the roux until the onions are translucent, about 5 mins.)

3) "Spoon the roux into the soup stock after both have finished doing their thing. Add only a little at a time or the oil, flour, and soup will separate. Stir the soup while adding roux to prevent this."

4) "Slice the mushrooms, into a small frying pan, with a little bit of olive oil for lubrication. Add the okra cut crosswise. Heat on low-med. Add a little garlic if you have some, it couldn't hurt! Continue to sauté until the okra is all twisted, and roped."

5) "While your mushrooms and okra are being sautéed, we have to cut up the vegetables! I use between 6 and 8 vegetables in my Veggie Gumbos, and the ones listed above are just suggestions. The okra however is a must -- without it, it is just thick veggie rice soup. Fiddleheads are difficult to find in a grocer, and when you do, they are expensive. I know a spot near my home, and pick them fresh in the spring. If you don't use fiddle heads, asparagus (and artichoke hearts) would fill in nicely. Be creative! Anyway, after you have cut up all of the vegetables, add all to the soup stock, except the parsley. Then, add the mushrooms and okra, and let the whole thing cook at a high simmer for twenty minutes."

"I didn't include rice in my recipe, because I have never served all this gumbo at once! I usually just make a bowl of rice for myself, but it does yield about 15 meals, so, make enough rice for 15 helpings. Remember, although this recipe yields 15 meals for one, I would only serve it to 10 people, your friends are gonna want a little extra."

"To serve: put a scoop of rice in a bowl, ladle gumbo over. French bread on the side is a good idea (I can't find cornbread here in Winnipeg)."

Sounds great ... thanks, Mike!  
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Chuck Taggart   (e-mail chuck)