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Posts Tagged ‘gumbo’

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I am probably one of the few non-Southerners who loves okra. I usually don’t buy it at the supermarket – only when it pops up at the green market in the fall does it make it to our table. It is such an interesting looking vegetable, particularly when it is the purple variety. When I have time and the price is right, I will pickle a good amount of okra. It makes a great accompaniment to charcuterie or cheese platters. But, as often as not, I will give it a quick stir-fry all by itself or mix it up with some tomatoes and onions. But occasionally – particularly when I’ve made cornbread or have shrimp on hand – I’ll turn them into my version of maque choux, that traditional Louisiana side dish that usually features just corn, bell peppers, and onion. Cornbread makes a good dipping tool and shrimp can turn it into a sorta gumbo. I never cook okra very long as I’m not a fan once it starts to get slimy. Although recently someone told me that if you blanch it for a minute or so, it stays bright green and doesn’t get slimy. I haven’t tried that method so can’t recommend it, but you might want to give it a try.

Maque Choux

Serves 4

2 tablespoons bacon grease (or any fat you like)

½ cup chopped red onion

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon minced hot green or red chile or to taste

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1 cup fresh corn kernels

½ cup chopped red bell pepper

2 cups sliced okra

¾ cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper

½ cup chopped scallions

2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

Hot sauce, optional

 

Heat the bacon grease in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, chile, and thyme and cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes or until the onion is softening. Stir in the corn and bell pepper and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until just barely tender. Stir in the okra and then quickly add the cream, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 5 minutes or just until slightly thick. Don’t cook too long as you don’t want the okra to start oozing – you want it slightly crisp.

Remove from the heat and stir in the scallions and parsley. Taste and, if necessary, season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce.

Serve hot.

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I have always loved okra; even as a kid, I’d eat the okra pieces out of Lipton’s Chicken Gumbo Soup before I’d dig into the bowl.  Don’t ask me why, ‘cause I really have no idea why it holds such appeal.  But, I only cook it in the summer when it is fresh in the farmers market or at farm stands and I only buy the wee pods as the big ones are tough and stringy.  The recipe I use is quite simple and so yummy – or, at least it is to me.

If this one doesn’t make you a convert, try it sautéed with lots of onion, a touch of tomato, and lots of Indian spices or curry powder and chiles – also delicious!  And, if you have the time, there is nothing better than pickled okra – it is a crunchy snack or hors d’oeuvre.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium sweet onion, peeled and cut into a medium dice

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 pound tiny fresh okra pods, trimmed of the stem end and cut, crosswise, into small pieces

4 plum tomatoes, peeled, cored, and chopped

or 1 cup canned chopped tomatoes

Crushed red pepper flakes to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes or until softened.  Add the okra and cook for a minute or so.  Stir in the tomatoes and season with red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper to taste.  Cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes or just until the okra is still a bit firm and the tomatoes have softened and exuded their juice.  Stir in the parsley, remove from the heat, and serve.

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