All gumbos start with a roux. Well, most of the time. I find that a gumbo made with okra doesn't need a roux because the okra acts as a thickening agent. This one is rich, thick, and full of flavor as a gumbo should be. Be sure not to cook gumbo made with okra in a cast-iron pot; it will turn black. It's also important to cook the okra until all of the slime disappears. Summer is the time to make this when the okra is young and tender and shrimp is in season.
Make a pot of this and sit outside on the porch to enjoy it.
Shrimp and Okra Gumbo
2 pounds small okra
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups chopped, peeled, and seeded fresh tomatoes, or 2 cups chopped canned tomatoes
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
5 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 quarts water
2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Wash the okra in cool water. Remove the caps and tips and cut into 1/4-inch rounds. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Fry the okra, stirring constantly, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until most of the slime disappears. Add the tomatoes, onions, and celery and cook, stirring often for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the okra and other vegetables are soft and the slime has completely disappeared. Add the salt, cayenne, bay leaves, thyme, and water. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer uncovered, for 15 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook, sirring occasionally for 30 minutes.
Remove the bay leaves and serve in deep bowls.