Eat Right: Save time but keep the flavor with this veggie gumbo recipe

Photo by Linda Gassenheimer/TNS / Vegetarian Gumbo

Why we love it

This recipe's garden-fresh veggies remind us of warmer days, while its heartiness helps counter the chill still in the air.

Best of all, it's a shortcut version of a Southern favorite: gumbo soup, comfort food that can take hours to make. But this gumbo captures the flavor without the hours. It's a one-pot vegetarian meal.

The key to good gumbo is cooking the oil and flour together to form a rich, light brown roux. This gives the gumbo its distinctive flavor. Okra gives gumbo its texture. When cooked, okra gives off a thick liquid that acts as a thickener for soups and sauces.

What you need

Recipe by Linda Gassenheimer

Vegetable oil spay

1/4 pound okra, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)

1 cup diced onion

1 cup diced green bell pepper

1 cup sliced celery

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 cups water

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 cans low-sodium diced tomatoes with the juice (14-ounce cans, about 3 cups)

1/4 cup frozen corn kernels

1/4 cup frozen lima beans, thawed

1 cup canned pinto beans, rinsed and drained

1 1/2-cups microwavable brown rice

Several drops hot pepper sauce

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

What you do

Heat a large nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat and spray with vegetable oil spray. Add okra, onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic. Saute 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove vegetables to a bowl and set aside. Add oil, then flour to the skillet. Blend well and cook slowly until flour is a rich brown color. Add water, little by little, stirring to remove any lumps. Bring to a simmer. Add thyme and canned tomatoes and return vegetables to the pan with the corn, lima beans and pinto beans. Simmer 5 minutes. While gumbo simmers, make the rice in the microwave. Measure 1 1/2 cups and save any remaining rice for another meal. Add the rice to two large soup bowls. Add several drops of hot sauce to the gumbo soup and salt and pepper to taste. Divide the gumbo between the two soup bowls.

Yield 2 servings.