AUGUST MORNINGS & OKRA

Roasted Okra | for the love of the south

Early August mornings began with a short jaunt to my grandma’s small garden patch. I remember walking barefoot in the grass and the feeling of the cool emerald blades, still clinging to the morning dew for dear life. Crawfish holes were speckled throughout my path, and I desperately attempted not to trample on them. The residents were allowed just a few more hours of peace and quiet before I began terrorizing the poor crustaceans. The gentle buzzing of wasp wings beat as familiar as an old truck puttering along a country road. My eyes finally spot the garden, tenderly tucked away in the corner of the yard.

Fresh Okra | for the love of the south

A sheltering fig tree filled the patch with a pleasant honeyed-aroma. Blackberries hid under their leaves like treasures waiting to be discovered, and sunny yellow flowers beamed at me with ruby eyes from the towering okra stalks. Jade ladylike fingers slowly swayed back and forth in the breeze, quietly summoning me like a queen giving consent to approach her throne. Peppery, grassy scents filled the air as I clicked a pinky-sized okra off its resting place, tossed it into a bucket and quickly filled the container to the brim with these emerald jewels. I followed the trail back to the house with the energy from the sun’s rays beaming on my back, a pail full of okra nestled in my arms, and the promise of a lovely summer’s day.

Recipe: Serves 4

Note: Cutting the okra in half lengthwise and roasting it eradicates the “slimy” texture that most people associate with okra. Also, try buying okra no longer than the length of your pinky. The smaller ones are delicate and tend to be more flavorful.   

1 pound of fresh okra, rinsed and dried thoroughly

½ teaspoon of salt

¼ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes (or 1 full teaspoon for the bold)

¼ cup olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Trim the rough tops and skinny bottom tips off the okra pods, and cut the okra in half lengthwise. In a large bowl, toss the okra, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and olive oil together until well combined. On a rimmed baking sheet, spread the okra in a single layer and roast in the oven for about 15-20 minutes or until brown. Serve immediately.

 

 

 

 

For the Love of Okra

 

If you were to Google “smothered okra,” you would not get many appetizing results. There is a reason for this. Smothered foods are not beautiful foods, but they sure are tasty. I have to admit, when it comes to smothered okra, you either love it or you hate it. Smothering this vegetable is a commitment, like in any relationship. You begin with happy orbs of fresh green loveliness, and then the fire is turned on. The fresh orbs begin to smell like a garden in the dead of heat. And with a patient heart, you stir and stir and stir, as the fresh green color fades and the texture begins to get a little, well there is no way around it, slimy.

Have faith in the dish and continue to stir and stir and nurture and stir some more. Before you know it, the vegetable will completely give up in the battle against itself and the heat and will convert the more “smarmy mash” into a dish with silky texture and olive green in color. Fully commit to the dish and it will never disappoint in the end, a requirement for relationships. Many life lessons can be taught at the stove, with a large skillet, a spatula and a mound of okra, waiting to be molded, transformed and completely devoted to the task at hand.

Recipe: Serves 4

4 tablespoons of vegetable oil

2 pounds of okra, cleaned and cut into 1 inch rounds

½ onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

Salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

In a large skillet, heat oil on medium heat. Add the okra, onion and garlic cloves. Stir all of the ingredients together in the pan until well distributed. Allow the okra to completely cook down. Honestly, this takes a while. This part usually takes me around 30-45 minutes. Make sure you keep an eye on the okra and stir the bottom religiously. If you notice that the bottom is starting to brown or the okra is sticking, scoop the okra to the side and pour a little water on the bottom, allow the water to bubble and scrape off the brown bits. Once the okra has completely broken down, it should be smooth and without lumps. Season the okra to taste with the salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Enjoy!