Perks of Summer: Okra

Okra (or Lady Fingers!)

Okra (or Lady Fingers!)

Summer.  It’s brutal.  Rising at 5 a.m. is now absolutely reasonable and outdoor activites after 10 a.m. are undeniably outrageous and sadistic.  But, like the extreme joggers who insist on running in the heat of a Texas summer day (on asphalt!), there are a few plants that don’t mind the heat and help sustain our hearts and bellies until Fall. My current favorite is okra.  It loves, loves, loves the heat.  And, if you are willing to water it a little, it will give you the goods while the rest of the garden (and the gardener) pants and faints in the blistering sun.

Now, some people don’t care for okra.  It has a mucilaginous texture when cut and it inspires a lot of people to coat it with cornmeal and fry it.  Now, I’m not saying that isn’t a delicious way to eat okra, but let’s think about this.  Okra is extremely good for you.  It’s high in fiber, vitamin C, folate content,  antioxidants and a good source of calcium and potassium.  Frying it, while delicious, doesn’t do its nutritional value justice.  So, what about this instead?  This recipe, snagged from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, delivers a thick, stewy concoction of summer’s brightest jewels that can be served with rice or black eyed peas for a satisfying and seasonal dinner. This is very quick work, too, if you have canned tomatoes from earlier in the season.

Okra Stew with Tomatoes

3 T extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion

salt and pepper

1 pound okra (trimmed and cut into rounds)

2 T chopped garlic

4 cups chopped or canned tomatoes

1 T minced fresh oregano

* Put 2 T oil in deep skillet or large pot, add onion, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until soft and turning golden (2 to 3 minutes) and the remove onions with slotted spoon.

* Add remaind oil to the pot and add okra.  Cook, stirring occasionally until it begins to brown and then add the garlic and stir it around a little (3o seconds or so).  Return the onions to the pot and add tomato, a cup of water and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

* Bring to a boil, then lower heat until it boils gently.  Cook, stirring occasional until the saude thickens up, about 45 minutes.

* Stir in oregano before serving.

Okra Stew with Tomatoes

Okra Stew with Tomatoes