Vegetarian / Vegan Gumbo
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Another good cold weather warm me up recipe.  Or, a light vegetable-only meal on a hot day.  Okay, so there is no okra or filé powder in this recipe so purists will frown.  But the tomato base, the rice and the hot sauce make it delicious enough for me!  This recipe will thrill your vegan and vegetarian friends. Ingredients: 1Ingredients: 1 tablespoon olive or other vegetable oil 1 large onion, peeled and chopped fine 2-3 celery ribs, washed and thinly sliced or else chopped 1 green pepper, washed then stemmed, seeded and chopped into ½ inch pieces 1 can 28 ounces diced tomatoes, with juices.  Get petite diced tomatoes if you can. 2 cans 5.5 ounces each of tomato juice, spicy tomato juice if you can get it. 8 cups vegetable stock, or plain water.  I use Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base according to directions on the jar, which is 1 ½ tablespoons added to the water. 1 can 15 ounces whole kernel sweet corn, rinsed and drained 1 can 15 ounces black beans, rinsed and drained 1 can 15 ounces red beans, rinsed and drained ¾ pound fresh string beans, rinsed and cut into ¾ inch sections, or 1 can 14 ounces of cut string beans ½ cup uncooked rice, rinsed and drained Dash of hot sauce such as Frank’s Red Hot or Tabasco to taste. Do not add salt – there is plenty of salt in the stock, tomatoes and hot sauce.  In a medium to large stock pot, heat the oil on medium/high heat to shimmering and sauté the onion and celery until they are softened.  Stir in the green pepper. Add the vegetable stock or water and continue on medium/high heat.  If you are using Better Than Bouillon you can add the 1 ½ tablespoons of it and heat through so it dissolves. Then add all of the other ingredients except for the rice and string beans.  Bring the gumbo back to simmering. Add the rice and simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes and remove from heat when the rice cooks through.  Then add the string beans and let the gumbo cool.  The string beans will barely cook, as I like it, and remain a little crunchy.  Add them earlier, along with the vegetable stock, if you like your string beans on the soft side. Add the hot sauce to taste, also some salt if needed according to your taste. You can simmer the gumbo down, uncovered and before adding (or omitting) the rice, for a bit longer.  Wait until much of the liquid is cooked away and the gumbo thickens.  Then you can serve it over additional cooked rice. Optional, for a non-vegetarian version: You might use Better Than Bouillon Reduced Sodium Roasted Chicken Base for the stock. Or add ½ - ¾ pound bulk ground mild or hot sausage, browned and crumbled.  Add it in with the stock. More options for a more authentic Creole feel: Add 2 cups fresh or frozen okra, sliced, along with the stock. Add 2 tablespoons filé powder, an Creole seasoning made from ground sassafras leaves, after the rice has cooked through.