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Summer's fresh okra, corn, peppers call for gumbo

“I think I’d like this on rice,” said my partner of a recent succotash dinner. “And without the lima beans.”

Well, in that case, I thought, I could have taken almost all the same ingredients and made gumbo. Incorporating bell pepper, okra, shrimp and andouille sausage, the succotash recipe in question was Cajun-inspired. So if I skip the lima beans, steam some rice and make the mixture more tomatoey, I’d basically have the classic Cajun stew.

Summer is indeed the time to combine flavor-packed produce, pumped up even more with spicy sausage and Creole seasoning. In fact, there’s really no other time to eat okra, unless it’s already sliced and frozen.

And the meats can flexible, as I’ve acknowledged in a previous post about jambalaya, gumbo’s kissing cousin. If you’ve got some leftover chicken, a single sausage and a few shrimp, both iconic dishes are ways of stretching them with veggies and starch. It’s also a great way to repurpose that odd cob of corn that didn’t get eaten the first time around.

I’ll use fresh, peeled and diced plum tomatoes from my garden for this recipe, courtesy of Tribune News Service, and substitute a poblano chile for the green bell pepper.

Easy Low Country Gumbo

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 Spanish onion, peeled and chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 pound chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces (about 4)

2 stalks celery, diced

1 green bell pepper, cored and diced

1 yellow or red bell pepper, cored and diced

2 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon Creole seasoning

2 cups chicken stock or broth

1 (15-ounce) can fire-roasted tomatoes

1/2 pound andouille sausage, sliced into rounds

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon sugar

1/3 cup corn kernels

8 to 10 okras, trimmed and sliced

Hot sauce, to taste

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 cups cooked rice, for serving

1 bunch scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced

Place the butter in large stockpot and melt over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and chicken to pot and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the celery and peppers and cook for another minute. Sprinkle the flour and Creole seasoning over meat and vegetables and stir well.

Add the stock, tomatoes, sausage, thyme, bay leaves and sugar to pot and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, then stir in the corn and okra.

Cook for another minute or 2, then add a couple dashes of the hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce and season to taste with the salt and pepper.

To serve, place a scoop of the cooked rice in a bowl and top with a scoop of gumbo. Garnish with some of the sliced scallions.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Tribune News Service photo