Here’s an interesting albeit useless factoid: watermelon is the official vegetable of Oklahoma. That’s right. Watermelon.
Until we moved to Oklahoma, okra was, in my mind, associated solely with Campbell’s Chicken Gumbo soup. I liked it quite a lot and ate my fair share of it as a kid. I didn’t mind so much the thick slices of okra with their attendant slime. But I wouldn’t have dreamed of eating okra in any other way. I’d never seen it as a fresh vegetable available in produce sections until we relocated to what is arguably the heart of Okra Country. It’s extremely popular here. Any gardener worth his or her salt wouldn’t dream of planting a garden without several long rows of okra. (Locals find it difficult to believe we don’t have any in our garden.) Generally it is eaten battered and fried – which, let’s face it – makes anything taste good or at least better.
Still. I’ve been afraid, reluctant, prejudiced against it. It’s taken me eight years to purchase and prepare it. But fate forced my hand, in a way. I’m working on a southern-tinged e-book (more on that soon) with a friend who lives in Alabama and I thought it would be nice to have some beauty shots of things that are considered classically southern: a tall glass of sweet tea, fresh ears of corn, and okra. The Whole Foods in Tulsa had two kinds (green and purple) and they looked so nice that it seemed a shame not to get some. Honestly, I really had no intention of doing anything with it other than snapping a few photos. But then I came across a local Tulsa food publication that featured (amazingly) a vegan okra sauté with cherry tomatoes, shallots, balsamic vinegar, and another Oklahoma staple: pecans. Someone up there was trying to tell me something.
I took my beauty shots of the okra for the e-book and then noodled around with this sauté idea. I don’t love balsamic vinegar, but I do love rice wine vinegar and tamari, so I decided to go with a stir fry that would be served with steamed brown rice, toasted pecans (cashews would be nice, too), and plenty of fresh Thai basil, which is busily taking over our garden anyway. I didn’t expect it to taste good.
I was very, very wrong. It tasted so good that I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Kel planted a few rows of okra next year. Now that I’m feeling like an honorary Okie, here’s an okra-cooking tip for you: avoid the goo by quickly searing the okra in a very hot pan. Seriously. Slime-free guaranteed.
Okra & Cherry Tomato Stir Fry
- Prep Time: 10
- Cook Time: 20
- Total Time: 30
Take two classic southern ingredients – okra & pecans – add some tomatoes, Thai basil and tamari and you’ve got yourself a okra & cherry tomato stir fry!
- 1/4 cup tamari or low sodium soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. mirin
- dash red pepper flakes
- dash ground black pepper
- ~15 green or purple okra pods, sliced in half lengthwise
- vegetable broth for sautéing
- 1 small red onion, sliced into thin half moons
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1/4 cup toasted chopped pecans
- Generous handful Thai basil, chopped (some leaves left whole for garnish, if desired)
- Steamed brown rice
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s good and hot, add a light spritz of cooking spray to the entire surface of the pan. Lower the heat a little and add the okra – putting the cut sides down. You want to sear those first and fast.
- Let the slices brown (but take care not to burn). This should take 4-5 minutes. Carefully flip the slices and lightly brown the other side. This will happen faster on this side so watch closely.
- Remove the okra from the pan and set aside. Carefully wipe out any remaining oil and put the pan back on the heat. Add a generous splash of vegetable broth or water and add the onions. Sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
- Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for a few minutes – you want them heated through and softened, but not bursting. Now, turn off the heat and stir in the tamara-vinegar mixture and the Thai basil. Stir to coat the veggies.
- Divide up some brown rice between 2 deep bowls. Divide the okra mixture between the bowls and top with the toasted pecans and additional Thai basil, if desired. Serve immediately.
- The key to avoiding the slime is to quickly sear the okra in a very hot pan. I used a cast iron pan that was thoroughly pre-heated.
- Double this, of course, if you’d like to serve 4.
- Sliced, sautéed mushrooms are mighty tasty in addition to the other ingredients. Add them to the pan after the onions are slightly softened. Cook for about 5 minutes, then continue with the recipe.
- Serving Size: 2
- Calories: 266
- Sugar: 6
- Sodium: 2027
- Fat: 10
- Saturated Fat: 1
- Unsaturated Fat: 8
- Trans Fat: 0
- Carbohydrates: 37
- Protein: 10
- Cholesterol: 0
When I saw the title of this post I got quite excited. Okra and cherry tomatoes are two of my favourite veggies, and this looks divine. I love the idea of the nuts in it as well, that’s something I’ve never heard of in an okra context before. I’ve also never had slime-fee okra before, so thank you for that top tip. It’s expensive stuff to buy here and I usually have it in Indian restaurants rather than cooking it myself, but I will remember that tip.
Well this looks like a fantastic way to whip up some Okra! I usually just go for roasting it so no sliminess, but this looks like a fab option to try!
Ah! Roasting it! I must try that as well! Okra is full-on here in OK so I’m sure to get my full ;-)…
This looks wonderful, beautiful colors. Okra still scares me a little, I’ve only had it fried in southern dishes. But am feeling more daring to get creative with the fresh stuff. Thanks!
I completely empathize! I avoided the stuff for 49 years ;-)! But I was so pleasantly surprised. Not having the goo-factor was key.
Annie this looks lovely! I learned to love okra when our CSA had a giant pick-your-own patch a few years ago. It seemed a waste not to take advantage of so much “free” veggies! I usually make vegan gumbo, but I want to try this, and Susan Voisin’s battered and baked version of the traditional fried okra.
Sounds like a perfect dish for my tastes. I love the Balsamic sub you created too and I don’t have any experience with fresh okra, just frozen bits (with no slime) that I put in my veggie chili.
Love how you kept them whole and the purple is just beautiful 😉
I used to love to eat okra in gumbo pre-vegan. Don’t think I’ve had okra since then. It definitely had that slime factor, which seemed to work well in a brothy gumbo. Love this dish and the flavors and fresh basil touch!
looks super delicious!! I’ve never tried okra but now I want to yumy
I’ve only really ever seen okra as you first mentioned, fried in some sort of chip form. I really don’t think I’ve ever tried it!
I’ve never eaten okra that I know of and it’s not something that can be found where I live but very much so in the bigger cities. I used to see it a lot in London but like you, didn’t really know what to do with it and I remember watching it being prepared on an Indian cooking show and the pool of slime wasn’t very appealing! But if I come across it again, I will be inspired now to try! The tomatoes look so shiny!! <3
Pingback: VEGAN INSPO : an unrefined vegan | raw carrot & cream cheese squares | jenny mustard