Sunday, September 26, 2010

Jambalaya Baby!

Wine with witty wine charms

Hi Everyone! I hope you all are having a great weekend. The sun is finally shining over here in Edmonton, something it hasn't done nearly enough of here over the last 4 months...
Anyway, its time for the second challenge of the Project Food Blog Challenge. First of all, a BIG THANK YOU to EVERYONE, near and far, old and new, that VOTED FOR ME. It was really exciting for me, you have no idea!!
After finding out I had advanced, I got right on trying to figure out what I would make for the second challenge:
How well can you tackle a classic dish from another culture? We're bypassing the French and Italian standards in favor of more challenging cuisines.

Step One: I need to pick a culture... or a dish... that isn't French or Italian. Lucky for me, my dear friend Angela gave me her cookbook "Sunday's At Moosewood Restaurant: Ethnic and Regional Recipes from the Cooks at the Legendary Restaurant" (I've never been and had never heard of it before now... haha!) when she moved to Vancouver. PERFECT! It took  me like 2 hours to decide on Jambalaya. There are so many interesting and yummy recipes in the book, so it was actually really hard to narrow it down.

Why Jambalaya? Well, I am sort of familiar with it, compared to a lot of the other recipes in the book, such as pumpkin soup (i was tempted since they are in season!) or Chilaquiles from Mexico. My mother has made Jambalaya for us before and I've had it at restaurants. However, this recipe was vegetarian (traditionally it has shrimp, sausage or chicken) and it also had some new challenges for me (which I will explain as I write about making the jambalaya!) 
I also love the heat and flavor (both in the food and Creole culture!) so it seemed like a fantastic choice.

Getting all the ingredients seemed easy enough- tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onion, carrots, celery and OKRA.
Yes, the okra challenge! I have never cooked with okra, but its a given when making southern food... but yes, I don't live in the south. I live in the north. But I have seen okra in stores before, so I assumed I would get it fresh or frozen no problem.... LIES!! I went to my local Save-on for all my groceries... no okra... I went to Planet Organic with Benita... no okra... I sent Ryan on a mission to his local Superstore and Sobeys.... no okra... and Benita went to her local Safeway. Still no okra. 
What is a girl to do when a recipe calls for okra and there isn't any in the city? She uses eggplant! I have no idea how this impacted the dish (probably less gooey), but it was still tasty. I'd love to make it again properly someday... but anyway, back to the food challenge!

Me and my apron- mixing roux!

Helping hands! Ryan showing us pictures of Roux.
What else was challenging about this dish? the ROUX! I had never heard of roux before (thickening agent made of oil and flour)... but now I know why people tend to avoid it. Because you have to stir oil and flour on a hot pan for like 30 minutes to thicken it up. I think it worked... it thickened up, maybe not as much as it should have? I have no idea. I was lucky to have Benita stir for awhile too, which was nice after I had been stirring for like 25 mins! 

I invited Ryan, Benita, Jeremy and Lauren over for dinner. So happy to have them over! Lauren and Benita brought wine, Jeremy brought pita and humus (happy camel!!) and Ryan brought the especially important okra substitute of eggplant! We all really liked the Jambalaya. I served it over oh so delicous brown rice, and topped it with green onions and smoked cheddar (the cheese honestly made it so great. i was surprised.) yeah yeah jambalaya!

I am really happy to have completed the second challenge for a few reasons:
First: I am not one to follow recipes much and don't usually get out of my comfort zone (who does?) so this was great. Now I know how to make roux and know that okra isn't in season right now (according to Wikianswers its in season December-March, so I'll have to look for it in the winter!)
Benita helped stir the roux so I could focus on the rest of the recipe. Thanks B!
Second: I got to spend time with friends. It was lovely and something I really needed. I feel like because I made a recipe out of Angela's cookbook, she was there with us (and we all love and miss you! Thank you for bringing me this recipe!)
Group shot! (Sorry Ryan!)

Third: I wore my apron, used my table and place mats... I never use those things enough!

Fourth: Leftovers for me while I edit my thesis like a madwoman on my Sunday afternoon.

Served over brown rice and topped with smoked cheddar and green onions.
Shiraz to drink.

For dessert: homemade apple crisp! (that isn't part of the challenge, it is just yummy! haha.)

Thanks so much for reading. I hope this makes you want some delicious Creole Jambalaya in your life (vegetarian or not!) 
Voting starts Monday, so if you like what you read/saw/imagine you smelled, then please vote!
Regardless, this has been great fun!

Leslie :)


  1. Yum! Love Jambalaya. Great post. Good luck in the competition.

  2. yeay for Jambalaya! :) grats on making it to round 2 and here's hoping we both get to the third. best of luck!

  3. I'm so glad I could be there in the spirit of the cookbook! I'm really sad to be missing all my wonderful friends and all your wonderful food!

  4. Loved this post. Jambalaya is delicious and I loved sampling the real deal in New Orleans.

    How cute that all of your helpers were there for you!

  5. Wow, this looks so great!!! I have already voted for you.

    And I know... I screwed up. Didn't see the 3pm deadline. Totally totally disappointed!!!
    I just checked and Foodbuzz automatically entered one of my posts as Challenge #2 (it was just info about it) so when I get home tonight I am going to try and "edit" that entry and see if they'll accept it - bc I TOTALLY made an awesome Thai Panang Chicken Curry. But I think I'm out :(

  6. thanks everyone!! i think the next time, besides the okra, i'll probably kick it up a notch with more spices, like cayenne.

  7. Excellent! Very creative and well, ingenious I think. Wonderful idea on sub eggplant for okra, now I will def be trying this. I remember the first time I made a roux, for cauliflower Au Gratin, I was so proud of myself. You have my vote and I look forward to reading more of your posts! I'd love to hear from you too if you'd like to visit my blog. ;-)

  8. How fun, it looks like you all had such a good time. I just love the picture of all of you in the kitchen with the computer an someone helping stir...alot going on n there - LOL, I can relate. Great entry and I am definitely putting a vote in for you!

  9. I love jambalaya and you definitely did a great job with it! It definitely intrigues me with the addition of the eggplant! Good luck!

  10. This sounds so good! I've been curious to try okra for a while now, since I see it at the farmer's market. Great work on this challenge, I'm off to vote for you!

  11. I just voted for you! I love jambalaya, having spent quite a bit of time in New Orleans. Great posting!


  12. Oh! Jambalaya... isn't it a perfect dish? All delicious things combined in one dish. Yours looks great. Loved the Sombrero by the way, lol.

  13. Ha! Great post! Good luck in round 2! btw- what's your thesis in?

  14. I love the challenge of making Jambalaya - on my way to vote :)

  15. That looks GREAT! [And I'm glad you discovered the joys of Moosewood. I love their cookbooks, although I, too, have never made the trek to the veg-heaven. ;)]

  16. My mom has that Moosewood cookbook, and we used to cook out of it all the time! I think my favorite recipe in there is the beurek (sp?) - garlicky cheese-filled phyllo pastries from the Middle East. Jambalaya is one of my favorite things, but okra is not. It was probably better with the eggplant. :) Anyway, nice job! I'm off to vote!

  17. In New Orleans everything starts out with a roux. You've opened the door to a whole new cuisine. Great post. I voted for you. Check out my NOLA recipes (and vote for my Pekin Duck - quack quack). Good luck.

    Lexi Van de Walle
    Lighthearted Locavore
    Vote for me at

  18. I do love Jambalaya... Great entry for challenge #2 :) Looks very tasty...

  19. Vegetarian Jambalaya?! I must try and I must vote!

  20. all of these comments make me so happy you have no idea! thank you so much for reading and voting!

  21. You have my vote too. Great job on the challenge!

  22. Vegetarian Gumbo! I would never have thought of it and now I can't wait to try it. Your substitution of eggplant for the okra was genius. In south Louisiana, eggplant is used in lots of recipes.

    Okra is a summer vegetable and the only way to find it in the winter will be in the frozen food section.

    You got my vote!