This vegan dish combines the delicious techniques behind a Cajun/Creole classic and the heartiness of some Montana-grown lentils. Since the French were a big influence on the cooking in Louisiana (along with Africans, Spanish, and Native Americans), using some French lentils made sense as they hold their shape and have a fun green color.
As the good folks in Louisiana know, the key to any good gumbo is the dark roux – a combination of oil and flour that gets slowly cooked to provide a deep, toasty flavor to the dish. You can’t rush it and you shouldn’t cut the process short. The use of smoked paprika helps provide depth to the dish. And all those delicious aromatics with fresh thyme are the perfect flavor base. Pair this gumbo with a load of nice long-grain rice and you can satisfy anyone.
And guess what? If you have skeptical carnivores, you can easily fry up some andouille sausage and top their serving with some of that. But we are willing to bet a good number of carnivores will gobble this meal “as is.”
4 tbsp vegetable oil 5 tbsp flour 1 medium onion 2 large stalks celery 1 large green bell pepper 1 small red bell pepper 1 small yellow bell pepper 1 regular zucchini 1 tbsp freshly minced garlic 4 cups vegetable broth 1 cup water 3 sprigs of thyme 1 14.5 oz can petite diced tomato 1 tbsp tomato paste 10 dashes Red Tabasco 1 tbsp smoked paprika 1 cup Timeless French Green Lentils Parsley and scallion for garnish
Serves: 4-6 people
Chop the onions, celery, green bell pepper, and garlic.
Preheat a large cast iron Dutch oven on medium heat and then add the 4 tbsp vegetable oil. Once the oil is heated whisk in the 5 tbsp flour. You are making the roux, which takes a little time and attention. The color will go from white, to golden, to peanut butter colored, to milk chocolate color. The best thing is to let it cook for about 30 seconds, then stir, getting the bits of flour moved around. It can take 15-20 minutes. Don’t walk away from it and forget! Once it gets close to the milk chocolate color, turn off the heat and stir as it will still cook for a bit.
Add the chopped onions, celery, and green bell pepper with salt and pepper and cook on medium low heat, stirring occasionally. After about ten minutes or when veggies are soft, add the garlic and tomato paste, cooking for 3 minutes. Then add the thyme sprigs, petite diced tomatoes, smoked paprika, water, and the hot sauce. Bring to a boil and then drop the temperature to a light simmer for ten minutes. Add the lentils, which take about 35-45 minutes to cook.
Dice the yellow and red bell peppers and the zucchini into 1 ½ inch pieces. In a separate frying pan, sauté these veggies on medium high heat for 6-8 minutes just before the gumbo is done cooking.
To serve, place the sautéed veggies into the gumbo. Pick out the large sprigs of thyme. Serve with long-grain rice and top with chopped scallion and/or fresh chopped parsley.