This recipe for Creole-style okra and tomatoes is inspired by an old Louisiana recipe. A simpler cousin to gumbo, this side dish makes good use of the two vegetables when both are at their peak of summer flavor.
Okra is a vegetable that arguably requires an acquired taste. I learned to appreciate it pickled or fried while traveling through the South, as well as when it is combined with tomatoes, as in this classic Creole recipe. The acidity of the tomatoes seems to temper that unusual texture that us Yankees are so wary of.
From Melissa’s Great Book of Produce by Cathy Thomas, here’s an introduction to okra, which can be a most perplexing vegetable. Reprinted by permission of Melissa’s Produce:
“Love it or hate it, few vegetables evoke such passionate opinions as okra. It’s not the flavor, a pleasant bland of eggplant and green beans. It’s the mucilaginous juices this vegetable exudes when sliced and cooked. Some cooks appreciate its ability to thicken gumbos.
Okra pods are fuzzy and deeply ridged, usually about 2 to 4 inches long. They can be delectable fried, grilled, or pickled.”
Buying okra: Look for smaller pods of okra, about 2 to 3 inches long; they’ll be more tender and flavorful than larger pods. Avoid pods that look dry or dull. They should snap when broken in half.
Storing: Refrigerate unwashed and untrimmed pods in a paper bag in the crisper drawer for no more than five days. To freeze, trim away the stem and, then cut raw pods into 1/2-inch-thick slices crosswise and place in an airtight container. Use within a few months.
Recipe is from American Harvest by Nava Atlas.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound fresh tender okra, stemmed and sliced 1/2 inch thick
- 1 pound ripe, juicy tomatoes
- 2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil, or 1/2 teaspoon dried, or more, to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- Pinch of allspice or nutmeg
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Hot cooked rice, optional
- Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and sauté over low heat for a minute or so, until lightly golden.
- Add the okra and sauté, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.
- Add the remaining ingredients. then cover and simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are reduced to a sauce.
- If the mixture becomes too watery, simmer, uncovered, just until it thickens up a bit. Serve at once as a side dish on its own or over hot cooked rice.
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