The weather is still shorts and t-shirts but there is a definite transition in the air. After a couple days of rains, winds and clouds the returning clear sky is not longer sending down waves of scorching light. And, to my chagrin the mornings are suggesting a light jacket. Yes, this is that point of transition for surf-n-turf weekend getaways to in town get-togethers with folks we’ve not seen since last spring. My kitchen is showing signs of this shift. Dill, cilantro and thyme are returning to pre-sweltering abundance and the last of my tomato plants are putting out flowers with very little likielhood of there ever being a fruit to harvest. But as I wait for the day I will need to pull a sweater over my head beets, lettuces and cauliflower let me know they will be there on that day as well.
Surprisingly to me there is one summer plant that continues to put out fruit continuously, and that is okra. Starting in early summer this African native has lite up the garden with awash of yellow flowers that quickly matures into the elongated vegetable that has divided eaters into love them or hate them camps. I remember the first time to ate okra I was visiting Austin, Texas and was served pickled okra. It was vile to me, and its only redeeming quality was the jalapeno that spiked the mushy slime I had to endure in order not to be viewed as an arrogant northern. It took me years before I convinced myself to have another go at it. In the farmer’s market were beautiful, petite samples and the farmer assured me, the smaller they were the less goopy they would be. And, they were right.
I now know how to deal with the mucilaginous interior – acid. The meeting of okra and tomato upon arrival in the New World a match made in culinary heaven was created. Though it is not just tomatoes I use: lemons, vinegar, and pureed peppers help neutralize its polarizing viscous nature.
Roasted Garlicky Okra – yields 4 servings
2-1/2 pounds okra
1/4-cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
¼-cup fresh lemon juice
Pre-heat the oven to 450-degrees.
Trim the stems from the okra and discard. Slice the okra on an angle about ¼-inch thick.
Carefully peel the garlic without crashing it. Then slice the garlic cloves as thin as possible – they cannot be too thin.
Place the okra, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper into 10-inch cast iron skillet. Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, and then remove and toss the okra. Return to the oven and cook another 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately mix in the lemon juice. Serve warm.