Sunday, September 14, 2014

Seriously, we can only eat so much fried okra.

Roasted okra and tomatoes with chili garlic vinaigrette. © Ryan Schierling
My first experience with okra was decidedly unpleasant – an unfortunate "high-brow" circumstance wherein a vegetable galette included its overly-mucilaginous presence.

Then we moved to Texas. If you know anyone with a big garden in these parts, you're certain to find okra offered to you by the cubic bushel in late summer. Okra thrives in the heat and seems to defy the sun-baked earth, and it's been showing up on our doorstep for the last few weeks.

So, how do you say "no" – in good conscience – to the pound of okra that arrives with every late summer CSA delivery? We joined for the local and seasonal offerings, and it just wouldn't be right to turn it away or not make good use of it. 

What exactly are you supposed to do with this stuff? Common wisdom points immediately in the direction of pickling, making gumbo, or battering and frying. But there's only so much pickled okra that's going to get eaten at our house this year, and if I'm going to make a mess of my cooktop with a pot of boiling fat... well, I can't honestly say that okra is the first thing I'd choose to fry up.

In a flash of merciful recollection, Ryan remembered seeing a recipe for roasted okra and cauliflower salad in a cookbook we got last year – Smoke and Pickles by Chef Edward Lee. It has been our salvation over the past few weeks of CSA deliveries. (You can also find it featured in this post by CBS The Talk, where he was a guest last Fall.)

Let me assure you, this recipe is a revelation and greater than the sum of its parts. Try it. Suddenly you will find yourself seeing roasted okra as an alternative to grilled asparagus or green beans for your next dinner veg. This salad is great at room temperature, and such a lovely balance of texture and complementary flavors. 

Roasted okra and cauliflower salad, from Smoke and Pickles. © Ryan Schierling

What really astonished me was the end bits of okra. Cut lengthways, those little bites of stem – what I would have otherwise assumed should be cut off – turn out to add a charming bit of crunch.

With the next delivery from our CSA, we decided to run with this newfound "roasted okra" inspiration. I thought a nice dressing with chili garlic sauce would be great – a splash of acid, and... well, my nebulous concept was rounded out by Ryan's roasting of some halved cherry tomatoes and dressing with a touch of sesame oil, plus a hint of agave. It was just about to be a vegetarian recipe when I went and decided it needed a splash of good-quality fish sauce to round it out and give it some depth. It's a little East meets Texas, and we think Chef Lee might even approve.

I figure, if we save even one brave soul from the dreaded "sigh... more okra...?" this year, we will have accomplished something very special indeed. It's a PSA for the sake of our beloved central Texas CSA.

Roasted Okra and Tomatoes with Chili Garlic Vinaigrette

1 pound okra, cut in half lengthwise (include stem)
1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons chili garlic sauce
Juice of 2 limes
1 tablespoon agave
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon fish sauce
Pinch of salt

Put cut okra and tomatoes in a mixing bowl and toss lightly with a few glugs of olive oil, to coat, and a pinch or so of salt and pepper. Turn out onto foil-lined baking sheet and roast in 450º F oven for about 15 minutes (until tender, but not slimy).

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the chili garlic sauce, lime juice, agave, sesame oil and fish sauce. Season with a pinch of salt. 

Dress the okra and tomatoes to taste with the chili garlic vinaigrette and serve. There will be a little dressing left over.

1 comment:

  1. This looks a little too close to octopi for me to want to see it slithering around my plate. (Although, if it's in your kitchen, am sure that it's delicious.)


We welcome comments. Thanks for your patience as we moderate to avoid spam and other internet foolishness.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...