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November 2005
Dangerous Brew, Gorgeous Stew
By Joshua Ploeg


Like the Big Easy, New Orleans jambalaya can be a bit mysterious, even a little dangerous. The experience will be different every time, even drastically so, depending on where y’at. Pretty much anything, even alligator (mock, of course), could be in the mix. Mine includes some ingredients perhaps more associated with gumbo. Don’t let that fool you. This stew is certainly representative of the excitement, hominess and flair of beloved NOLA.

Eat this meal and think about how the city will soon be back to its wild, rich, historical and crazy self. That’s essential to all of us. Also think how a little ingenuity and a new focus on resolving poverty in this country could prevent or at least buffer a future horrendous disaster down in the Delta.

Jambalaya and gumbo come from poor roots—it’s “what ya got?”-style cookin’. Jambalaya may have been an accident but it’s a beautiful one, and this style has had an obvious impact on my cookery, for sure. Every experience I’ve had in New Orleans I cherish now, good and bad. I also treasure both the friendliness and the tension that make it such a unique place.

I dedicate this column to all my friends down there. Those who won’t be going back and those who will, Godspeed and good fortune on whatever y’all decide to do and whatever you need, always feel free to ask.

Much love,

3 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 White Onions, minced
1 Large Jalapeno, minced
2 Fresno Chilis, minced
Handful each of Marjoram, Cilantro and Oregano
1 Carrot, peeled and chopped
1 Yellow, Red and Green Bell Pepper, chopped
1 lb. Vegan Sausage, chopped
1 lb. Vegan Chicken, chopped
1 Eggplant, diced
2 Tomatoes, diced
1 lb. Okra, cut (frozen works well)
1⁄2 C. Olive Oil
2 Bay Leaves
2 t. Paprika
1⁄2 t. Allspice
1 1⁄2 t. Chili Powder
1⁄2 t. Cloves, ground
1⁄2 t. Coriander, ground
2 Pinches of Cinnamon
Cayenne, Onion Powder, Salt and Black Pepper to taste
2 T. Tomato Paste
Louisiana Hot Sauce and Smoky Chili sauce to taste
Tamari or Kitchen bouquet
Water or Broth as needed

1. Begin by sautéing bay leaves, onions and garlic in olive oil with a pinch of salt in a big pot.

2. Add carrot, tomato, chili peppers and eggplant, with half of the herbs and spices. Stir, add a bit of water or broth and some of the hot sauce and cook for five minutes with a lid on.

3. Add the fake meats to this and some browning sauce or tamari. Cook stirring for a couple of minutes.

4. Stir in some more water and the tomato paste. Now add everything else and cook, stirring for 20 minutes, adding more water/ broth or seasonings as required.

5. Serve with some dirty rice.

For exciting rice, cook basmati with bay leaves, salt and pepper, chilis, onion, garlic, herbs, allspice and whatever else. Fry some soy chorizo in olive oil with salt and pepper, some allspice and a sweet, smoky hot sauce. Add some peppers and more onions and garlic to the mix. When the rice is cooked, stir it into the skillet with the “sausage” and other stuff and toss and cook briefly until it’s down and dirty, and then laissez les bons temps roués—it’s good cookin’!

Recipe of the month, tour information and occasional diatribe: Contact Joshua at His cookbooks are available at



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