Friday, February 6, 2009

Kids Make Smothered Okra

There are many vegetables that kids don't care for but grow to love as adults. Okra may be that rare vegetable that works just the other way around: kids seem to love it, and only learn to hate it when they get older.

Okra originated in Africa and famously gave the world the stew "gumbo," taking its name from the native word for okra. Okra followed the slave trade into the New World, finding a home all over the South and in the Caribbean islands. Okra loves a hot and humid climate and grows very well right here in the District of Columbia.

Some people prefer their okra fried, to eliminate the gooey-ness that sometimes accompanies this relative of the mallow plant. While our "food appreciation" classes are still island hopping on our virtual world food tour, we tried this classic preparation variously called "smothered okra" or "creole okra," in which okra is simmered very simply with other vegetables. We like to serve it with plain rice.

There are no herbs or spices in this preparation other than salt and pepper. You might be surprised how full of flavor it is. Pairing okra with onions, tomatoes and corn seems to be a perfect combination.

2 tablespoons bacon grease (or substitute extra-virgin olive oil)

1/2 yellow onion, cut into medium dice

1/2 green bell pepper, cut into medium dice

26 okra pods (each about 3 inches long), stem removed and cut on an angle into 1/2-inch pieces

1 14-oz can diced tomatoes, with juice (or two ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced)

1 cup corn kernels

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a heavy skillet over moderately low heat, heat the bacon grease or olive oil and add the onion and green pepper. Cover and sweat the vegetables until they are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the okra, tomatoes and corn, cover and cook until the okra is fully cooked and tender, about 20 minutes. (The okra should turn an olive-green color). Season with salt and pepper and serve hot with brown rice.


Christine said...

One of my favorite dishes! I just found out I'm getting a plot in a comm. garden! Any advice for a neophyte in the garden?

Ed Bruske said...

You might get a lot of use out of a book called Square Foot Gardening. Talk to the most experienced gardeners there to see what they do. Plant intensively. Tomatoes need more room than people normally give them. Think about things you can grow vertically. Plant collards and kale and mustard greens in the fall so you have greens to pick all winter long.

rhino writer said...

This is very similar to a Sephardic okra dish, which was the first time I ever cared for this veg. That's just onions, lots of garlic, okra, and chopped tomatoes, all sauteed. Very tasty; I make it about once a summer when okra's at the farmer's market.

Ed Bruske said...

rw, Sephardi okra? You've got my attention.