Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Okra you can actually like! (Really, I promise!)

          Hardly anyone I know is really crazy about okra. Yet you find it in huge piles in the farmers' markets, so I know a lot of people cook it. Growing up in my Louisville home, okra was cooked with a sort of stewed tomato mixture and I avoided it at all costs. Later I discovered the cornmeal crusted fried okra of the deeper south and although it was edible, still I couldn't see any appeal to it.
            Not,at least, until I had okra a couple of weeks ago at The Elegant Farmer. Mac has a way with vegetables, and the okra on one plate from his last Monday wine tasting was no exception. He had seasoned and roasted them. He counseled me to use very small okra pods for this, and to cook at a high hear.
             Last week my friend June Williamson brought me a bag of okra from their garden and I thought I'd give it a try. Since I'm going to be going to a function at my son's in Massachusetts later this month that requires me to have a dish made with bacon, I thought I'd try to incorporate bacon into my okra. But I couldn't decide how to do it without making it very bacon-fatty, so instead I used pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika) for the seasoning. That gave it the smoky flavor I had in mind. I tossed the smallest okra pods with limonolio (olive oil that has been crushed with fresh lemon), salt and smoked paprika, and a few halved cloves of garlic, and spread it all out on a baking sheet.

     I roasted them in an oven pre-heated to 450-degrees for about 15 minutes.  I thought they were delicious. The smokiness of the pimentón, the light lemon flavor and the roasted garlic combined to make a dish that to me was not merely edible, but really tasty. 

       Oven temperatures vary, so if you make this, you want to make sure that the okra pods are roasted enough to get a little toasty looking, but not roasted so long that they get limp. And when you buy your okra (unless you're lucky enough to have a friend with a garden) pick out the very smallest pods. 
      You can find the limonolio at Whole Foods or Fresh Market in Memphis.  If you'd rather, you can substitute regular olive oil and the zest of a lemon or two, depending on how much okra you're roasting.
      I served this with a chorizo-fresh fig dish that was also very tasty...but that's for another post!
Posted by Picasa

No comments: