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How I cooked the okra

If you read this post, you might be wondering how I managed to go from okra-hater to okra-eater in the course of one summer.

I used to avoid okra like the plague, but after a summer in a CSA, I now know how to cook it into a dish that I enjoy.

I grew up in the South, but never really liked okra. I always thought the fried okra served at the K&W Cafeteria I used to go to as child in North Carolina looked like dog food. Okra’s reputation for being slimy didn’t motivate me to try it prepared any other way, either.

But when a few bags of okra came my way as part of my weekly box from the Snead’s Farm CSA this summer, I decided to give it a shot. After much Web searching, I eventually settled on stewing it.

Stewing vegetables with onions, garlic, tomatoes and seasonings is a really nice preparation that I decided I need to do more of at home. Variations on this recipe, (maybe omitting the allspice) would also be great with summer squash. Okra is a late-summer vegetable, and it’s probably about finished in most of our area, but file this one away for next year, and even if you think you hate okra, give it a try. The vinegar soak at the beginning is a European technique that is supposed to rid okra of some of its sliminess.

Mediterranean Okra-Tomato Stew

Recipe adapted from from The New York Times

2 pounds okra, tops trimmed

generous amount of salt

1 cup vinegar (the original recipe calls for red wine vinegar, but plain white vinegar will do)

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

1/4 cup olive oil

3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced

1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained

black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon ketchup diluted in 1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon ground allspice

juice of one lemon

1/4 cup chopped parsley

Place the okra in a large bowl. Salt generously, then pour over the vinegar. Let this sit for at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour or more. Drain and rinse well.

Heat oil over medium heat in a lidded skillet or Dutch oven. Add onions and cook, stirring, until tender, about five minutes. Add okra and cook, stirring, about three minutes, until edges begin to brown. Add garlic, then stir in tomatoes. Simmer until tomatoes have reduced a bit, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Stir in dissolved ketchup and allspice. Add water if necessary to just cover the okra. Bring to a simmer, then cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 45 minutes. Add parsley and lemon juice and simmer another five minutes. Serve alone as a side dish or over rice as a main.


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