Alta Adams chef and co-owner Keith Corbin’s “California soul” take on gumbo — or as he calls it, “gombo,” spelled closer to the West African word for “okra” — is vegan. It’s a multilayered dish with a complex vegetable stock as its base (it’s fine to use prepared vegetable stock if time is limited). A chile-enhanced gombo sauce of cooked okra and shallots is amped with red miso paste, in place of a traditional roux, and lime juice. For serving, Corbin starts with a layer of cooked California brown rice, then adds the gombo stew and tops it all with sautéed, charred or grilled vegetables that change with the seasons and add texture to the stew. On the day he made the dish in The Times’ Test Kitchen he sautéed broccoli, kale, sweet red peppers and baby corn that he found at the farmers market. He added a garnish of fresh pea shoots and radish sprouts, but this is also flexible. You can try a simple sprinkling of mint, parsley or other herbs.
‘California Soul’ not only describes Keith Corbin’s background of drugs, violence and prison on the way to becoming a chef. It’s about his whole approach to Black cuisine.
For Vegetable Stock: Place charred onions, sliced onions, carrots, fennel, celery root, leeks, thyme and water in large stock pot. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat until flavorful and sweet, about 2 to 3 hours. Strain and discard solids. Makes about 5 liters.
For Gombo Sauce: Heat palm or olive oil in large pot and add garlic, ginger, Fresno chile, shallots and okra. Sweat vegetables over gentle heat until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in chile powder, then add vegetable stock and salt to taste. Simmer over medium-low heat until thickened, about 45 minutes. If desired for smoother texture, remove 1 liter of sauce, puree in blender and return to pot. Simmer additional 15 minutes if needed, until flavors have melded. Whisk in miso and lime juice and season to taste with salt.
For Gombo assembly: Cook vegetables of choice, such as broccoli, kale, sweet peppers and baby corn, using method of choice: sautéed in a neutral oil, grilled or charred. Spoon cooked brown rice into individual serving bowls, add a layer of the gombo sauce and top each serving with cooked vegetables. Garnish with pea shoots, sprouts or herbs as desired.
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