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Get gusto of gumbo without all the fat and calories

SHARE Get gusto of gumbo without all the fat and calories

Don't give up on gumbo, for all its rich, even overloaded, reputation. Nutritionists at the American Institute for Cancer Research, based in Washington, D.C., have reworked the traditional Louisiana dish to create more healthful and meatless variations.

They suggest the use of seasonings and cooking techniques that eliminate high levels of fat and calories but keep wonderful taste and textures. The following two gumbo-style dishes use vegetable ingredients instead of meat.

The "voodoo" in Voodoo Gumbo refers to the magic of mushrooms, which produce a rich body and satisfying "mouth feel" that make meat unnecessary.

Although technically not a gumbo, the "Red Bean Gumbo" is a close relative.


2/3 cup flour

2 tablespoons canola oil

4 cups shiitake and-or portobello mushrooms, rinsed, patted dry and cut into large chunks

1/2 cup roughly chopped mild onion, such as Bermuda, or shallots

1/4 cup minced chives or tops of scallion onions

1/4 cup diced celery

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 green bell peppers, seeded and cut into eighths

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

3 bay leaves

2 quarts vegetable broth

Hot sauce, to taste

1 to 2 teaspoons liquid smoke seasoning, or to taste (optional)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives (or 1 tablespoon dried), for garnish

4 cups hot cooked rice, either a mix of brown and wild rice, or all brown rice

File powder, to accompany gumbo (optional)

Make a nonfat roux in nonstick skillet: Lightly brown flour over low-to-medium heat, stirring constantly, until flour turns a light peanut butter color. Immediately transfer flour to a small bowl and set aside to cool.

In large, deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat oil over high heat until very hot. Depending on size of pan, saute mushrooms in enough batches so pan is not overcrowded, or mushrooms will cook instead of saute, causing them to ooze liquid. Remove sauteed mushrooms with slotted spoon and set aside.

Add onion to pan and saute about 1 minute. (Add 1 teaspoon of oil if necessary.) Add chives, celery and garlic and cook another 1 minute. Add bell peppers and cook about 1 minute, or until all vegetables are lightly sauteed. Sprinkle nonfat roux (browned flour) over vegetables and quickly stir in, scraping bottom of pan. Stir in herbs and seasonings.

Slowly add broth, whisking or stirring constantly, to blend to a smooth, lump-free mixture. Add mushrooms, bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to simmer gently until mushrooms are tender, about 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings, adding more salt and black and cayenne peppers to taste if necessary. Add hot sauce and liquid smoke seasoning (if used) to taste.

During the cooking process, oil may be released from the roux. Before serving, any excess fat should be skimmed off with a skimmer or paper toweling. (Chilling overnight in a refrigerator improves taste of gumbo and in the process, fat will congeal and become easier to remove from surface.)

When ready to serve, divide cooked rice evenly among 6 bowls. Spoon equal amounts of gumbo over rice. Garnish with chopped chives. Serve with file powder for individuals to spoon into gumbo to taste. Makes 6 servings, each containing 304 calories and 6 grams of fat.


1 pound dried red kidney beans (about 2 cups), picked over and rinsed

2 tablespoons canola oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

8 ounces chopped lean country ham (optional)

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper, or to taste

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste (optional)

8 cups defatted chicken bouillon or vegetable stock

1 to 2 teaspoon liquid smoke seasoning, or to taste (optional)

4 cups hot cooked rice (see Note)

File powder, to accompany gumbo (optional)

A few drops of hot sauce, or to taste (optional)

About 1 hour before preparing the gumbo: In large container or pot, cover beans with boiling hot water to at least 2 inches. Cover and let stand until beans have swelled to at least twice their size and have absorbed most of water, about 1 hour. Drain beans, discarding soaking liquid.

In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat oil until hot. Add onion and garlic and gently saute until onion is translucent and garlic is soft, taking care they do not brown. Add celery and bell pepper and saute 1 to 2 minutes more, stirring frequently. Add ham and lightly saute.

Mix in herbs, seasonings, bouillon and beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Partially cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, about 1 hour.

Note: Although white rice is the traditional accompaniment, for added nutrition, use brown rice.

Makes 6 servings, each containing 516 calories and 8 grams of fat.

A free copy of the American Institute for Cancer Research's brochure, "The New American Plate," may be obtained by calling (800) 843-8114, extension 33, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. EDT, Monday through Friday. On the Web: www.aicr.org.