Green City Gumbo! By Kitt Healy

 My Locavore project for day 3 of the challenge is Green City Gumbo. This emblematic dish of Louisiana seemed like the most delicious way of putting as much Green City goodness as possible into one pot. I also love making gumbo as the weather turns colder. It not only warms the tum and the spirit, it also reminds me of New Orleans, whose eternal summer, year-round outdoor markets, and general magic I start to miss as winter approaches. I’ve even got John Boutte jammin’ on the i-tunes as a tribute!

 Gumbo is, by definition, a hodgepodge. All of my ingredients today are grown within 300 miles of Chicago, but their cultural influences span the globe. The word “gumbo” is itself derived from a West African word for okra, one of the classic ingredients in the dish. When preparing gumbo, you always start with a “roux”, the traditional French combination of flour and butter, cooked to a milk-chocolate brown color and used as a thickener. The spice filé (made from dried sassafrass leaves) is also often used in gumbo and comes from the Choctaw Indians, whose presence in Southern Louisiana precedes the Europeans and Africans by god knows how long. I love the image of the original inhabitants (Choctaws), West African slaves and French Acadian settlers sitting around a big cauldron over a fire on the bayou, each adding their own special something to the peace pot. If it had only happened that way…

 Anyways, now we’re making gumbo! I start with a roux of Heritage Prairie whole wheat flour and Nordic Creamery’s summer butter. The smell they make when combined over heat is pure ecstasy. Whole wheat flour doesn’t usually make a great roux, but I’m also putting okra in the mix and I’m pretty sure its infamous goo will do the trick as a thickener.

 After the roux is nice and brown I add some sliced up Meadow Haven sausage, onions from Genesis, okra from Nichols, carrots from Tiny Greens and sweet peppers from Green Acres and Leaning Shed. I cook those for 5 minutes and throw in the last of my Granor Farms garlic (sad face). After cooking that for a bit, the chicken broth goes in (made a few weeks ago from Tj’s chicken). I also add a little bit of white wine (not local, but so necessary), parsley (from my garden), salt, pepper, and some cajun seasoning that I got at the Spice House on Wells.

 After this boils for a moment and simmer for an hour, I taste it. It’s generally good, but not quite spicy enough so I add a tablespoon of this fabulous roast tomatillo and spicy yellow pepper sauce that Dave from Leaning Shed made. Pure magic.

 Gumbo is usually served over rice, but this wicked concoction is going over boiled hard winter wheat-berries from one of our fabulous guest vendors, Breslin Farms. Yum!

 So, that’s the gumbo! And to answer, Dana’s question. I find myself consistently cheating with chocolate. I can’t help it. I have a dependency. But, I’ve been fortifying my morality by buying chocolate only from the incomparable Mr. Canaday, Le Choclatier on Wabash. He is a true artist and I’m happy to have his art as my vice.

 Happy Locavoring!

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